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In this issue, we spoke with Holly Metzger-Brown, the youth fitness director of the York Jewish Community Center in York, Pennsylvania, about youth programming.

How did you pivot your youth engagement strategies during COVID-19? 

To build youth engagement and build relationships with families, it continues to be vital to communicate and offer programs on a variety of platforms that would include the digital and virtual worlds. During the pandemic, when families’ behaviors started to change, it was apparent the industry’s success was dependent on adapting to the newly shaped behavior. Providing fun and useful content digitally and virtually that was easily accessible during the shutdown was pivotal for engagement.

What challenges have you had to overcome in effectively offering youth programs during and after COVID-19 shutdowns? 

Continuous changes to the local and national guidelines and decisions have created opportunities to continue to reevaluate past thinking and behavior patterns. Youth fitness and sports programs follow the demands of the community, and as they continue to change, it is crucial to make short-term programming decisions. To develop programming that aligns with the city’s needs, we’ve had to offer shorter program options. In the past, developing programs were decisions made yearly — now to be effective, it is essential to make decisions on a monthly basis.

What does the future of youth programming look like in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The future of youth fitness and sports will offer more opportunities at the local level, therefore decreasing travel and increasing family time. There will be more of a demand to provide programming that attracts a variety of families’ needs including indoor, outdoor and online. Sports that provide physical distancing, such as golf and tennis, will continue to grow. Small class sizes will be more appealing to provide physical distancing and personalized attention from the instructor.

Children’s yoga is another program that will increase participation due to its natural ability to be physically distanced and provide many health benefits including calming behaviors, coping skills and socialization while enhancing balance, coordination and strength.

Is there any advice you could offer other professionals for running youth programs in the current environment? 

The new look for the youth fitness and sports field will provide high-quality programming for families that include several factors. When designing programs in the modern era, it will be critical for families to have programming that provides high-quality instruction, small class sizes, physical distancing, and social and therapeutic opportunities, all while having a safe and structured environment. 

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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