Shouts and laughter fill a large fitness center in the Vancouver suburbs as some 50 children in Grades 5 to 7 are put through their paces, from swings of a baseball bat to wobbling while standing on one leg on foam squares. Before and after the swirls of action, there are discussions about the worth of sleep and a discussion of enthusiasm and purpose in one’snbsp;life.

“Stay awesome!” Provides 11-year-old Justice Smith, as teacher Akriti Sharma tallies the kids’ ideas of purpose on an easelnbsp;board.

Welcome to KidsMove, a new program based in Burnaby that attempts to educate “physical literacy” to kids ages eight through 12. The core idea behind KidsMove is that fitness class is as valuable in life as mathematics or English — taking a fun yet scientific approach to physical education that treats learning the way the body works and moves with the same seriousness as colleges treat algebra or reading fiction. A compelling motivation for the program is the challenging backdrop of health problems affecting Canadian children, everything from inactivity to obesity and sugar. KidsMove is in the starting line at the moment, but its founders and backers think it could become a template of physical literacy among children across Northnbsp;America.

The origins of this program and its methods start with Steve Nash, the retired Canadian basketball legend, and his work with B.C. physiotherapist Rick Celebrini. With the support of Celebrini, Nash, as a young professional player, overcame a wonky back, a condition called spondylolisthesis that causes vertebral slippage. On the court, Nash was among the best passers and shooters in National Basketball Association history — but it had been made possible off-court by cautious, grinding physical exercises to be certain his body and back held up to the physical pounding of professionalnbsp;basketball.

Early in his career, Nash connected with Celebrini and both came to work closely together. The important period was when Nash had turned 30. It was 2004, and he had been going to join the Phoenix Suns, where his career would really take off. Nash and Celebrini spent the summer working in the University of British Columbia, on the court, in the weight fitness center, on forested paths and in the sea. They devised a series of exercises, focused around core power, that bolstered Nash and hisnbsp;back.

A decade later, in 2014, Celebrini began on a plan to bring his elite-level work with Nash to kids, the genesis ofnbsp;KidsMove.

Celebrini brought in local colleagues who worked with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps, in addition to Olympic athletes, with specialties in physiology, psychology and strength and conditioning. For one winter, the team developed their program using an Atom hockey team which Celebrini’s sons played on. Nash heard of what Celebrini was up to and obtained his own base — whose primary focus is healthy children –nbsp;included.

“Steve embodies what we are trying to educate,” said Celebrini, who also works with the Canucks and Whitecaps. “He is a super-active child, really, at 43. That’s the way he will always live hisnbsp;lifestyl”

The Fortius Sport and Health center in Burnaby has been the home for the small but growing KidsMove program. Fortius staff help run KidsMove as well as the centre hosts groups of children in its huge gym. The first KidsMove sessions were staged at Fortius in July, 2016, for children from the area. This fall, KidsMove enlarged to sponsor its first school group, a 10-week program for the 50 or so students from Grandview Elementary, a school in East Vancouver in which nearly all students arenbsp;Indigenous.

KidsMove is further expanding this month to include six universities in the Burnaby School District.

Fortius, where Celebrini co-founded the medical-services program, is best known as a place for top-level sports. Canada’s national women’s soccer team has coached there and the Toronto Raptors have staged several training camps in the centre. However, Fortius has also strived to welcome as diverse an audience as possible. With KidsMove, Fortius brings the children into a facility they may not otherwisenbsp;see.

It doesn’t comenbsp;cheap.

Between the facility and the adults involved to conduct the program, the price is $20,000 to pay 10 sessions for 50 kids. Add in busing costs of $5,000 and the total is $25,000. It is free for the children and the schools — but the cost stays $500 a kid; a program based on pro-calibre techniques honed by Steve Nash prices anbsp;lot.

The money is coming from Fortius’s charitable arm, the Fortius Foundation, even though it has yet to raise all of the cash required to take KidsMove through its total 2017-18 plans. The Steve Nash Foundation has been a supporter, as have local corporate and individual donors. John Tognetti, chairman of Vancouver investment company Haywood Securities, helped underwrite the Grandview children. Tognetti attended Grandview as anbsp;boy.

KidsMove sessions run two hours and there are a half-dozen adults involved. Kids in Grades 5 through 7 are considered an perfect age to learn the thoughts the program attempts to impart — the children are old enough to participate in specifics of different tactics and appreciate and consume mottoes such as “set aims,” “work hard” and “have fun,” that are posted on signs around thenbsp;fitness center.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Fortius program leader Akriti Sharma started with a refresher on the previous week’s lesson about the value of sleep. Then there was a moment of silence, a sort of beginners’ meditation for kids. There was hardly anbsp;peep.

The kids were subsequently set loose, guided through activities in four classes. Across the gym, all of the children participated with some quantity of gusto. There were no losers and no one was chosen last. Boys and girls flung and captured footballs. The children teetered in balance exercises. Within an agility drill, they hustled, moving forward and backward and sideways as best they can between colored pylons as a teacher shouted out: “Purple! Red! Blue! Red! Yellow!” On the other side of the gym, a net baseball backstop was put up. Kids took their turns in the T-ball stand and in fielding. 1 woman, in bat, eyed the ball up and drove a sharp line drive through all of the defenders. She celebrated with a grin and a bat reverse, although not quite as declarative as Josenbsp;Bautista’s.

Subsequently, Justice Smith was bouncing. “Fortius is enjoyable,” she announced. Back in Grandview Elementary, her favorite class is gym — but it is the wider ideas here that have captured her attention.

“We talk about things besides sports,” Justice said. Before KidsMove, she did not know about the science of sleep. “If you do not sleep,” she said, when asked what she’s learned, “it is going to be more difficult for your brain innbsp;course.”

This is just what Nash would like to see: Valuable info clicking withnbsp;children.

“The ‘why’ is where everything changes,” Nashnbsp;stated.

While KidsMove stays small for today, Nash said his base and the app developers are searching for ways to move it outside Britishnbsp;Columbia.

“There are a lot of young people who may benefit from these principles,” henbsp;stated.

Another of the aims of KidsMove is the teachers who help run the sessions bring back the components to gym classes at their schools. Grandview Elementary instructor Aaron Singh is applying for a grant to purchase equipment like agility ladders and hurdles used in the program — and on many pronbsp;groups.

Singh has seen what he calls a “super-fun, enjoyable program” resonate with hisnbsp;pupils.

“It is lively,” Singh said of KidsMove. “This pushes the youngsters. If something is hard, they are learning it is about doing yournbsp;finest.”

As the children registered, Fortius’s Sharma laughed and exhaled. “That was exhausting,” shenbsp;stated.

She talked about how concepts like the athletic posture — the poised crouch that’s central to physical action — has linked to the young participants. In other KidsMove sessions, successful athletes have come to speak to the kids, such as gold-medal freestyle skier Dara Howell. Another time, the children were grossed-out but curious to hear from a Fortius nutrition expert concerning the many colours of urine and how different colors can indicate decent health or anbsp;difficulty.

The background of KidsMove, and a driving force behind the investment, is all of the big issues around the worsening fitness levels ofnbsp;kids.

“There’s a enormous public-health crisis,” Sharma explained. “Our objective is to receive kidsnbsp;movin”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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