Fitness for the Family: Swim, Sports, Play!

By Kim Gray, Chief Operating Officer, Joplin Family YMCA

The Joplin Family Y has been part of our community for over a century. Founded as The Young Men’s Christian Association of Joplin in 1891, its mission was to house young mine workers in an environment that provided “wholesome recreation that would preserve youth from the temptations of alcohol and gambling and promote good citizenship.”

Similarly, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Joplin (YWCA) was formed in 1905 as a boarding house for young working women.

It was upon the desire to protect young people from the temptations of at-risk behavior by providing a safe environment with wholesome recreational alternatives that these two organizations were founded.

By 1986, both the national YMCA and YWCA adopted co-ed missions that focused on the well-being of families. As a result, a decision was made at the community level to merge the YMCA and the YWCA to form the Joplin Family Y. Similar to the founding purpose of both Y organizations, the main service offered for families at that time was child care designed to keep youth safe, active and away from at-risk behavior. Fitness options for families were largely absent.

While child care is still a large part of what we offer families, the Joplin Family Y is planning some exiting changes in 2019 to address the fitness needs of 21st-century families. We will do this by adding more options for youth through the Swim, Sports, Play! program.

Swim, Sports, Play! answers the question often asked of family fitness centers: “What do you have for kids?” In addition to child-watch, Swim, Sports, Play! provides children with opportunities to engage in structured fitness, aquatics and sports-training programs while their parents are working out in the facility.

Through Swim, Sports, Play!, kids will be able to access youth swim lessons ranging from basic level to stroke refinement. Head Life Guard Crystal Zaerr says, “There are many benefits for children who take swim lessons. Not just for themselves, but for their parents’ peace of mind, as well. Aside from learning how to swim, lessons help kids make new friends, instill confidence and teach them what to do in emergency situations.”

Swim, Sports, Play! will also include access to the Joplin Family Y’s newest youth fitness offering: Next Level Sports. This program focuses on performance and conditioning training for kids to “take it to the next level” by strengthening the core movements needed to excel in various sports. Next Level Sports is headed up by the Y’s Membership Program Executive, Evans Allen. With over 20 years’ experience training athletes from youth and college level to professional, Allen believes “the science behind performance and conditioning is to provide a competitive advantage for athletes, but it is also great for kids who just want to be fit.”

In addition to swim lessons and performance and conditioning training, Swim, Sports, Play! provides the opportunity for kids to learn the fundamentals of basketball, soccer, flag football, volleyball and T-ball.

“Our youth sports programs are geared for younger children and teach teamwork and sportsmanship,” says Program Coordinator Skylar Phillips. “Some kids will go from our programs to play competitive sports, but all will gain skills that position them for success later in life.”

The needs of families will continue to evolve, but the focus of YMCAs across the nation remains steadfast: to serve the community in the areas of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Joplin Family Y’s purpose behind the Swim, Sports, Play! program is to create a true family fitness experience in a one-stop-shop where parents can work out while their kids participate in quality, structured activities that keep them healthy, active and engaged.