The statistics about childhood obesity in Michigan are sobering, especially when it comes to kids and physical activity. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, only 31 percent of our state’s youth participate in a daily physical education class. Only 47 percent of youth are physically active for at least 60 minutes per day, five days a week. These disturbing statistics are why organizations like Detroit PAL, a participant in Kids Opening Day with BCBSM and the Detroit Tigers, play an important role in improving the health of kids in Michigan. Volunteers like Coach Laquita Foster are a driving force behind Detroit PAL’s ability to reach 11,000 kids each year. Coach Foster works with the Little Hoopers, which is a five-week basketball season for four to six year-olds. This former Marine started coaching older children, but made a purposeful shift to work with the Little Hoopers. “I found that the need was to focus on them at a more youthful age because I see that they are so eager to learn at that age and it’s good to develop fundamentals early on,” she says. Part of those fundamentals is learning how to stretch properly and having healthy snacks. Learning how to pass and dribble is important too. Foster rightly points out that the children are also learning fundamental life skills that will be a part of their lives on and off the court. “This is a time of learning how to develop their social skills, learning how to interact with kids from both genders,” she says. “We’re introducing them to the sport in a way that’s positive and fun, to prepare them with life skills they will have for the future.” Part of the focus with the Little Hoopers is that basketball is fun and there is hard work involved. There is also teamwork involved, so the children learn what it means to be a teammate. For Foster, giving back to the community as a coach is a natural extension of what she did while she was a member of the United States Marine Corps. She chose Detroit PAL because the number of programs they offer, and the wide age range of youth they serve impressed her too. “I’ve been coaching since I served my country in the USMC, and it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. I feel a need to do this,” she declares.
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