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April Jeppson: Don’t be afraid to change the way you do things

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

As part of my coaching, I also teach a ninja class. It’s part of the American Ninja Warrior program. I’m sure you’ve seen the TV shows where participants have to jump, climb, run, grab — do whatever it takes to get to the next obstacle without falling. In the fall, our gymnastics club revamped part of one of our rooms and built a pretty awesome structure. During a time when sports options were minimal, we started a program for high-energy youth.

April Jeppson

I have parents apologize to me all the time for their kids being hyperactive, or not listening. I assure them that their child is not the only one spinning in circles or climbing on walls (literally). In a world where children are supposed to sit quietly in a chair for hours on end, the ninja program allows these kids to get their wiggles out.

My goal is to for these kids to have a fun and safe time. I want them to enjoy their time with us and want to come back. I want them to finally have a place where they can move their bodies the way they want to and not get in trouble for it. Think about how many times children get yelled at for climbing on the couch or jumping on the bed. In class we celebrate that behavior. Almost weekly we set up floor-is-lava style courses for them to navigate through, and they love it.

With summer around the corner, kids are getting antsy. I know the teachers can feel the extra energy in the classroom because I can feel it in my gym. Instead of a reasonable amount of chatter and movement during stretching, I can hardly hear myself think. These kids are overflowing with so much energy. I wish I had that much mo-jo at 6 p.m. Think of all the things I could accomplish!

My problem with too much energy is that these kids still need to pause, listen and be respectful. If they are jumping around and not listening to the instructions, then someone is more likely to get hurt. So, for the first part of class, we stretch and try to drain them of some of their energy. It’s like when a kid goes to the sink to get a glass of water and comes back with a cup that’s overflowing and dripping all over the floor. We need to dump just a little of that water out so we’re at a safe level.

This last week there was no amount of jumping jacks or push-ups that would wear them out. One of the coaches said, “I wish we could take them outside!” and we all kind of looked at each other like, “Why can’t we?” We hadn’t done it before, but at this point, we needed to do something different.

We set up some safety cones and we brought them outside to move and talk and really get their heart rates going. The sun was out and the wind was blowing our cones over. The kids were listening better and their little cheeks were turning red from the workout and being outdoors. We might have only been outside for 20 minutes, but it’s exactly what we all needed. They needed to move, and I needed to get some of their wiggles out so they could listen and safely perform the obstacles.

Old solutions don’t fix new problems. We have only been running this program since the fall. We have never had to make it through the spring when kids get that extra boost of energy. The way we open up our class wasn’t working this time and we needed to come up with something different. We could have powered through inside, but it would have been more difficult for the coaches and the kids. Taking our workout outside was a better solution.

As we go about the springtime seasons of our lives, don’t be afraid to change the way you do things. Just because that’s the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. Pause, reflect and talk to your fellow coaches (friends) and see if maybe there’s a different way that might ultimately make your day and your life easier. Maybe it’s getting a hairstyle that’s easier for you to manage. Maybe it’s inviting someone new to join you for pickleball. Maybe (because you’re not satisfied with your current job) instead of sitting down to watch TV every night, you take an online class.

“Let’s not be so stuck in our ways. Change can be good. It opens us up to new experiences and new friendships. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” — Gordon B Hinkley

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.