Rec&Ed’s Obstacle Dash builds confidence, teamwork

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By Tara Cavanaugh 

Early in the morning last Saturday, dozens of young kids could be seen sprinting over tires, jumping over walls and crawling under nets in a challenging half-mile obstacle course at Scarlett Middle School’s field.

And they were having the time of their lives.

The course was the culminating event of Rec&Ed’s Obstacle Dash, a new program offered this spring at Bryant, Pattengill, Pittsfield and Mitchell elementary schools. Rec&Ed was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health last fall, and it has used the money to fund nutrition education and after-school activities such as Obstacle Dash at Title 1 schools.

Rec&Ed partnered with One on One Sports Training, which provides athletic instruction for kids, for the K-5 Obstacle Dash program. It took place at each school once a week for eight weeks.

“We give them a chance to build their confidence through being able to do something that they’re good at: playing, running, jumping –– all things they experience just on their playground outside, on their own,” said One on One Program Coordinator Jamie Gregg. “It’s something that they all know how to do and are excited to do.”

“It doesn’t focus on a specific sports skill,” said Sheri Judkins, who’s in charge of sports programming at Rec&Ed. “It’s just physical movement. You don’t have to be that coordinated of an athlete.”

At each after-school session, students had a snack and a nutrition lesson and then spent an hour working on an activity, such as jumping over tires or balancing on a beam. Each activity was incorporated into the obstacle course last Saturday.

The MCDH grant allowed the entire Obstacle Dash program to be provided free of charge, Judkins said. “The snack, busing home if the kids needed it, the coaches, basically it covered everything, at no cost to the parents.”

Rec&Ed offered the program at Mitchell, Bryant, Pattengill and Pittsfield because those schools tend to have low enrollment in after-school activities. Each school’s Obstacle Dash course was full except for one.

Obstacle Dash also taught kids the importance of teamwork, leadership and confidence.

“The kids have to stop at the end of each obstacle to make sure that their whole team has made it through,” Judkins said on Saturday as she watched the kids excitedly run through the eight parts of the course. “They can’t just race through it and leave the little kids or other kids who aren’t as athletic behind in the dirt. They have to wait each time or go back and help kids who are needing a little assistance.”

Some of the obstacles were geared expressly for teamwork: at one, the kids helped carry each other across the grass. At another, bigger kids and One on One coaches –– who also ran the course –– helped the smallest kids climb over a wall.

Obstacle Dash isn’t the only program funded by the MCDH grant. Rec&Ed also provided a basketball program at the four elementary schools this winter.

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