Always End with a Game

What do kids like?  According to Shiloh Ellis, youth athlete and coach, “Kids like games.”  At 12-years old, Shiloh is likely the youngest CrossFit and weightlifting coach in the United States.  Shiloh is so passionate about coaching that he completed a CrossFit Level 1 course and received a special certificate for his efforts.  Shiloh recently shared his perspective on training youth athletes.

Q: Who are you coaching right now?

I am an intern at CrossFit Full Potential in Newburyport [Massachusetts] where I teach a CrossFit Kids class.  Also, I am coaching a group of Boys Scouts who are completing their Personal Fitness merit badge.  I will be working with them for twelve weeks.

Q: What topics are important to teach youth athletes?

Nutrition is really important.  I like to educate other kids about sugar and how bad it is for you.  Eating too much sugar can lead to hyperinsulinemia, [an increased level of insulin in the blood].  Hyperinsulinemia can lead to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even organ failure.

I encourage kids to read product labels and not just rely on product claims.  Manufacturers use pictures that are appealing to the eye and words like “fiber” and “high protein” to sell products.  It doesn’t mean that these foods are healthy, though.  You have to read the ingredient lists and look at the labels.

Q: When is the best time to talk to kids about nutrition?

I like to talk to them after the workout.  They get their energy out from the workout and listen better.

Q: What do you like about coaching other kids?

I love teaching. Some kids are really into fitness, but others are not.  Maybe they will learn to love it, though.  Some kids don’t love working out at first, but six months later, they do.  When I see a kid who wants to get better, it motivates me.

Q: Is there anything you don’t love about coaching kids?

I love working out, especially CrossFit, so I want to jump in and do the workouts with the kids I am training.  I know that I can’t do that as their coach, though.  I have to stay focused on the athletes and what they need.

Q: What makes you a good coach?

I know what kids want.  I’ve seen adults coach kids and kids coach kids.  Kids know what kids want, so they can more easily relate to it.  When adults try to coach kids the same way they coach adults, it can get boring.  

Q: What do kids want?

Kids want a game.  I try to include a game at the end of every workout.  A simple game is “The Ground is Lava.”  Put down objects that kids can move across, like boxes or ropes.  

I don’t have the biggest area at my gym, but I make things work.  We have an Air Runner that is a direct shot to the garage door.  Kids hop from this onto a box, then slide and hop onto the assault bike and bike a certain number of calories.  

Get creative.  Take inspiration from the video games and movies that kids watch.  For instance, imagine that you are on a mission and have to run away from zombies, then you have to swing across a pit with snakes in it.  

Q: What can kids do to help other kids?

Kids can raise money to help other kids in need.  For the past three years, I have been involved with kettlebells4kids, an organization that raises money and awareness for homeless children.  I have traveled to 16 states and talked to over 50 gyms to raise money.  Whatever state the money is raised in, it goes to that state.  Money that I have raised has gone to Bright Space, a play area in a low-income housing development in Newburyport, that gives kids a safe place to play with toys and books.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

I want to be on the Level 1 Seminar Staff.  I’ve always wanted to be a coach and own my gym.  And I want to live in Tennessee on a little farm with no neighbors.  It just sounds peaceful.   

Q: What message would you like to send to other youth weightlifters?

Keep up what you are doing.  Don’t stop.  Once you get the technique, it gets easier.

For more insights from Shiloh, check on this video created by the CrossFit organization:

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