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Start Smart teaches youth sports in fun environment

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The youth baseball team from the R.P. Lee Youth Center listen to their coach discuss how they did during practice here June 27, 2016. They were part of the youth sports program and learned different baseball skills at different stations on the field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The youth baseball team from the R.P. Lee Youth Center listen to their coach discuss how they did during practice here June 27, 2016. They were part of the youth sports program and learned different baseball skills at different stations on the field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Tech. Sgt. Albert Stoner, 21st Operations Support Squadron and coach, demonstrates how to hit a baseball during a Start Smart baseball practice herre June 27, 2016. Kids worked on different skillsets including fielding a one-hop ground ball and advancing bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Tech. Sgt. Albert Stoner, 21st Operations Support Squadron and coach, demonstrates how to hit a baseball during a Start Smart baseball practice herre June 27, 2016. Kids worked on different skillsets including fielding a one-hop ground ball and advancing bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Christopher Pfeifer, 8, gets ready to field a ground ball during a Start Smart baseball practice here June 27, 2016. The youth sports program at the R.P. Lee Youth Center provides Peterson youth with a fun and safe way to practice new sporting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Christopher Pfeifer, 8, gets ready to field a ground ball during a Start Smart baseball practice here June 27, 2016. The youth sports program at the R.P. Lee Youth Center provides Peterson youth with a fun and safe way to practice new sporting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Peterson youth gulp water between drills during a Start Smart baseball practice here June 27, 2016. Start Smart is an eight-week program offered through National Alliance for Youth Sports and was created to develop sports techniques in an environment that’s both fun and safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Peterson youth gulp water between drills during a Start Smart baseball practice here June 27, 2016. Start Smart is an eight-week program offered through National Alliance for Youth Sports and was created to develop sports techniques in an environment that’s both fun and safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Tech. Sgt. Darin Carson, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command and team coach, encourages Owen Doucett as he rounds a base during practice here June 27, 2016. The youth baseball team was practicing the fundamentals to get ready for their first game July 7. (U.S. Air Force photo Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Tech. Sgt. Darin Carson, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command and team coach, encourages Owen Doucett as he rounds a base during practice here June 27, 2016. The youth baseball team was practicing the fundamentals to get ready for their first game July 7. (U.S. Air Force photo Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Peterson youth grab their baseball mitts and get ready for fielding practice at the baseball fields here June 27, 2016. They were part of the R.P. Lee Youth Center youth sports program and learning different baseball skills at different stations on the field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Peterson youth grab their baseball mitts and get ready for fielding practice at the baseball fields here June 27, 2016. They were part of the R.P. Lee Youth Center youth sports program and learning different baseball skills at different stations on the field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Peterson youth kicked up dust as they ran sprints up and down the outfield and their coaches encouraged them to run faster. As they crossed into the infield, they got a quick gulp of water and moved to the next exercise.

The baseball program at the R.P. Lee Youth Center here began June 13, and provides Peterson youth with a fun and safe way to practice new sporting skills through the Start Smart Sports Development Program.

Start Smart is an eight-week program offered through National Alliance for Youth Sports and was created to develop sports techniques in an environment that’s both fun and safe, said Carlos Wade, Youth Center youth sports director.

“The main benefit is to introduce the kids to sports at an earlier age,” he said. “For the sports here, we focus on the fundamentals.”

The Peterson youth program consists of four different Start Smart programs, including football, basketball, soccer and baseball. He said there are 24 kids enrolled in the baseball program and they will learn baseball techniques side-by-side with their parents.

“It’s set up like a circuit trainer,” he said. “We’ll break them down into four stations. Six kids will be hitting the ball, six kids will be running bases, six kids will be working on catching and throwing and the other six kids will be rotating around.”

When the kids rotate to a new station, their parents rotate with them, at least initially, Wade said. Their involvement helps the kids learn something new with their parents, but also break out of their comfort zone and learn to work together with a team.

“One thing we want to push is social awareness,” he said. “It allows that parent to, at an early age, let the child grow because some of the kids coming in –first sport – are still very attached to their parents, but by the third or fourth week, the child is able to go without their parent.”

The more time players spend with their team, the stronger the camaraderie amongst teammates. Wade said another important message the kids learn is everyone deserves a chance to play and be included, no matter their ability level.

“We also have some kids with disabilities,” he said. “Sometimes parents are afraid because they don’t want them to be embarrassed or don’t want them to be singled out or (had a bad) past experience. But here, everyone is able to play.”

Respect is a major part of being on the team, said one of the coaches, Tech. Sgt. Darin Carson.

“We don’t let them slack at all when it comes to respect for the team, the coaches or the family,” he said. “Once you’re part of the team, you’re part of the family.”

For the newbies, attention is focused on learning the fundamentals without the rules of playing a game, Wade said. After the 3-4 year old age category, the Pee Wee category is for ages 5-6 and is an extension of Start Smart, but adding the rules of playing a game. Coach pitching is for the 7-9 year olds and 10-12 year olds pitch themselves.

The kids in the older age categories play games against Fort Carson and the Academy youth, Wade said. All games are played at one base and the next week another base, increasing base rivalry and camaraderie.

Carson lauded the hard work of the team and said his favorite part of coaching is seeing the application of new skillset come together on the field.

“I love getting out with the kids and seeing them adapt on the field,” he said. “It’s when they light up during a game and they know they did well – watching their first big hit or their first catch.”

For 8-year-old Max Todd, his favorite part is getting dirty out on the field and learning new skills.

“It’s fun when I get to hit the ball and run,” he said.

Whether it’s baseball or any other sports available through the youth sports program, the coaches ensure kids and parents alike learn and have fun being active.

For more information on the R.P. Lee Youth Center sports program, call 719-556-7220 or visit http://www.21fss.com/about/rp-lee-youth-center/youth-sports/


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