The YMCA was founded in 1844 by 22-year-old George Williams and his London-dwelling friends, all of whom were distressed by the dangerous conditions and bleak housing for working people. Today, the YMCA extends its branches through more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the country to foster social change by promoting youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Partnering with these communities and working with students and volunteers, the YMCA's programs sponsor and empower people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. The organization's fitness and sports centers provide opportunities for people to exercise and achieve overall wellness, and social services connect underserved people with affordable housing, employment, and substance-abuse programs. Collegiate programs establish local service opportunities for students to teach a sense of self-awareness and community responsibility, and children’s camps help youth explore nature, be creative, and develop independence.
Spurred goalward by experienced head coach Justin Evans, The Pittsburgh Riverhounds take to the grassy battlefield and dribble figure-8s around opponents from the eastern United States and beyond. Soccer enthusiasts can exchange their general-admission ticket for a stadium's-eye view of the Riverhounds' roster of talented kickers in action, as well as two earfuls of noise from their loyal mob of fans, the Steel Army. The 12-year-old team gained national recognition last year by joining the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division, one steppingstone away from the MLS and two steppingstones from the NFL.
HappyFeet founder Andy Barney boasts a lengthy resumé: the Oxford, England, native was a semipro soccer player by the age of 16, studied physical education in college, and coached youth soccer for 10 years before moving to the U.S. In America, he coached at Avila University and wrote the book Training Soccer Legends, but one day he found his extensive experience challenged by an unlikely group—preschoolers. He had agreed to spend what he thought would be an easy afternoon leading tots in a soccer workshop, only to end up exhausted yet inspired to design a curriculum specifically for younger kids.
His research eventually led to HappyFeet, where instructors play with kids aged 2–6 using a proprietary lesson plan the company dubbed “story time with a soccer ball.” Each kid receives a ball, and beyond practicing basic skills such as dribbling, striking, and autograph signing in a noncompetitive setting, the incorporation of stories, nursery rhymes, and songs enables kids to exercise both physical and mental faculties. The 45-minute indoor classes, which were reviewed by the _Pittsburgh Tribune_, are held onsite at preschools and sports facilities such as PISA. Little ones can also be enrolled in HappyFeet’s leagues, where a 15- to 20-minute mini class precedes a 30-minute game.
Vertical and horizontal walls. Climbing ropes. Pulley lifts. Weight-laden sleds. These are just some of the challenges that await obstacle-race runners. Spartan Tough Training specializes in preparing people for such races by filling its facility with many of the same challenges. Members learn the most efficient ways to conquer obstacle courses while generally improving their strength, agility, and endurance, in order to prepare people to try to beat their personal records. With kettlebells for strength training and giant tires that can act as podiums for victory-speech practice, Spartan Tough Training gives clients the equipment and amenities they need to prepare themselves for race day. In addition to the equipment available now, Spartan Tough Training is adding a full outdoor training course behind the facility in spring of 2015.
Crooked River Adventures’ river adventures are leisurely, no-experience-required pleasure cruises that challenge the muscles while massaging the mind’s shimmering-blue waterscape dreams. Glide past verdant foliage, through glittering reflections of aged bridges, and into great blue herons’ great blue neighborhoods while the sun warms your skin, the wind blows through your hair, and your hair blows through your hat. All the while, you’ll be learning the proper strokes that propel floatmobiles to ultrafun, and you’ll begin to gain functional understanding of the strength of a body in fluid, powerful motion. Crooked River Adventures operates in conjunction with Kent State University Recreational Services’ Adventure Center, which has received statewide recognition for its boating program and outstanding handshakes from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft.
Founded by sports enthusiast and former adolescent Rick Hart, Jump Start Sports works to enrich pupils' childhoods by developing useful life skills through athletics. Qualified counselors employ their wealth of experience working with children to help campers learn teamwork and fair play as well as the fundamentals of fielding baseballs, scoring soccer goals, or synchronizing pom-pom work. A course structure built around age-appropriate activities, group play, and free electives ensures that students never get bored, and an 8:1 pupil-teacher ratio enables one-on-one assistance to young champions as they practice the graceful art of pitching or the scheming intrigue of free-agent contract negotiation.