Avera program helps young athletes “Accelerate” their sports training

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:38 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Childhood obesity has more than tripled over the last four-plus decades.

Most parents know the modern struggles of getting kids out of screens and in motion.

And yet, as youth, club, and high school sports become more intense, athletes are starting to exercise and lift weights at younger and younger ages. Sometimes, to detrimental results, both physical and psychological.

Avera has a new “Acceleration Prep” program for kids ages 10 and 11 (and in some cases, 12) that teaches them how to train effectively and safely.

They learn how to stretch, run, use a treadmill, and lift light weights properly. But they start with body exercises, like squats. And they get in a workout.

”We teach them the correct form, the correct technique when it comes to lifting,” said Julia Lee, an Avera exercise specialist who teaches the one-hour, twice-a-week class at the Avera Human Performance Center.

“This ensures that later on down the road, they don’t get hurt or (suffer) any unnecessary injuries.”

Luke Miller, 10, is a soccer enthusiast and one of Lee’s students.

”What I’ve learned so far has been the highlights of my day,” Miller said. ”So far, I’ve learned how to increase my speed, my form, and just a lot of things that’ll help me get my strength up — especially for soccer.”

Miller enjoys the social benefits with his five classmates.

”The first day, we met, I just became friends with them,” Miller said. “They’re really nice. We joke around, obviously, sometimes, but most of the time we just have fun and do our workouts.”

The group’s instructor has also taken kindly to her crew.

”They’re fun. They’re energetic,” Lee said. “It’s a good reminder that sometimes the bare basics can do a lot, so working with them and teaching them those basics is fun because they’re learning new things.”

Miller said “everything we do here is fun,” but that treadmill running is his favorite thing. He also said Lee does “an amazing job” working with the students.

“She helps us improve our form, our speed, encouraging us,” Miller said. “All the people here really are helpful when it comes to training kids. So, if you’re looking for something to improve your body, come here. It’s the best place.””

Before the first class starts, the students receive individual attention. Lee said every kid has a different body and is at their own unique level of readiness for sports training.

”We start them with evaluations first, just to see where they’re at, because we kind of want that baseline so that we can start them there and progress them,” Lee said.

She added that parents who want young athletes to get a head start on training need to be smart about it. To light a fire for exercise and activity in their kids, but not burn them out on overtraining.

”Not doing too much too soon,” Lee said. “Letting your kids be kids. Play outside. That does a lot for developmental, physical health, and mental health, as well.

“Then, working with people like us at Avera who may have a little more of an educational background would be the next step.”

But when it’s too cold for the great outdoors, Miller said the Acceleration Prep program is the place to be, and he’d recommend it to anyone his age.

“Not only is it helping with your core and other body parts, it’s also a really good experience,” Miller said. “Hanging out with your friends while doing something that helps you improve your body. I would encourage everybody to do it. At least try it.

“I really think that this is the best exercise program that anybody could ever have, ever.”

For more resources about navigating your kids’ sports training, exercise, and body development thru Avera’s programs, click here.