C+RB‘s 15th Annual Ideas Issue highlights creative new events and approaches, born out of pandemic necessity, that have earned permanent popularity. In this article, we look at how Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria, Va. implemented Little Jumpers—a fitness program to provide a special outlet for kids 4 to 10.
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and in the case of Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria, Va., the pandemic sparked the implementation of Little Jumpers, a fitness program that provided an outlet for kids 4 to 10. While the club had previously offered similar programs, attendance retention never caught on.
“At Belle Haven, we have a myriad of youth programs already on the schedule, so breaking into the club’s internal market can be a struggle,” explains Fitness Manager Veronica Clark. “COVID-19 proved to be the perfect time to start, as we began to experience a surplus of kids because of the capacity limits implemented by the Virginia state government.” The program kicked off in November 2020 and ran through April 2021.
Billed as an athletic training program that sought to teach the basics of fitness while increasing strength, power and agility, Little Jumpers ran eight-week sessions divided by age. The program was marketed to members via a special mailer and digital billboards situated throughout the club, yielding 20 registered participants for the first session.
According to Clark, the program’s two-month duration was based on a multilateral Linear Periodization performance model, allowing for a gradual increase of workout intensity without running the risk of overtraining. “The primary purpose of the multilateral phase is to help kids build a foundation with which they can effectively develop complex motor abilities, allowing them a smoother transition into the specialized periodization models we see in athletes over 15 years old,” she adds.
With classes divided into four themed increments, each participant underwent warmup exercises, footwork and strength training, agility training and game/fun time. Step-up/footwork exercises included single and double leg box jumps, while whole weight/strength exercises ranged from dumbbell snatches to planks. This mix of fitness styles provided a balance of activities without overtaxing young members.
To ensure proper member safety, instruction was provided by Clark, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified exercise physiologist, along with a college-aged training assistant studying youth fitness. Classes were primarily held outside and in the case of inclement weather, they moved to one of the club’s three ballrooms. Indoors, all participants were required to wear masks, class size was reduced to 10 students, and all equipment was wiped down after use.
As word of Little Jumpers spread throughout Belle Haven’s membership, interest level surged, prompting the club to add extra session dates and times. Clark credits the program with helping to attract and retain younger families. “Many parents were looking for a place to send their kids after school to give them structure, while also allowing them a chance to let loose,” says Clark. “The program itself was fluid, to allow the kids a chance to express themselves while also providing a learning and nurturing environment.”
And while the advent of Little Jumpers was not needed to generate an uptick in the club’s already-robust youth programming, it did lead to more adult members (parents of Little Jumpers attendees) registering for evening Group X classes.
The program amassed 61 members over six months, with location limitations dictating a fall/winter-only schedule. Clark says she will use the summer pause to make gradual improvements to Little Jumpers before restarting in September. On the agenda is the implementation of a countdown clock, to help students stay on task.
“Due to COVID restrictions, we were unable to use our Group-X studio, but restarting in the fall, this will no longer be the case,” she notes. “Having a permanent location for Little Jumpers will help in retaining the attention span of the kids.”
The Goal: Provide a fun, safe environment for teaching fitness basics to kids 4 to 10 at Belle Haven CC.
The Plan: Create a strategic approach to building sports performance while testing endurance.
The Payoff: A dedicated beginner fitness program for kids that also yielded a surge in adult programming.