For this weeks #TinaTuesday I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Ourian, Program Coordinator for the LEAP Program at John F. Kennedy University. LEAP, which stands for Life Enhancement through Athletic Performance, was founded 26 years ago by Gail Solt to help youth from underserved populations succeed in sport, school, and life through mental skill building. Not sure about you, but this is the first time I'd even heard of the Program, and I have to say that I was fascinated. Students in the Sport Psychology Program at JFKU intern for LEAP as part of the degree program, and their job is to help empower participants to reflect, recognize their potential, understand how to reach it, and to make sound, thoughtful decisions along the way (I just love this concept). Through participation in the LEAP project, youth learn sport psychology techniques and team building in a supportive environment of positive reinforcement. Rather than focusing simply on sports, youth learn to use sport psychology to improve their life skills and develop respect for themselves and others. The LEAP project teaches proven sport psychology techniques - such as goal setting, relaxation, concentration (I'm thinking maybe I should go back to school and get my Masters in Sport Psychology... ok, squirrel) and positive self-talk - in an interactive and non-traditional games environment through sports participation and then helps youth apply the techniques to other aspects of their lives.
Here are a few of the programs...
- Student Athletes on High School Sport Teams - The LEAP project works with underserved high school student athletes. Student-athletes learn about setting goals, positive self-talk, energy management, peak performance, motivation and team-building.
- Challenge Camp - The LEAP Challenge Camp is held at Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility (OAYRF) in Byron. This camp has been in place since 1991. OAYRF is an unlocked facility for boys ten to eighteen years in age who have been incarcerated for engaging in criminal behaviors (it's hard to imagine kids that young being incarcerated). The LEAP Challenge Camp teaches mental training skills that can be applied as life skills, enabling participants to make better choices and decisions, and to become productive members of our community. The week culminates with a visit to a ropes course where the boys apply the skills they have learned.
- Sport Specific Camp - The LEAP Sport Specific Camps include sites such as the First Base Foundation (2011) and the non-profit Mustang Soccer Club (2012-13). Youth participants in these camps learn performance enhancement techniques such as positive self-talk, goal setting, relaxation, and team building.
Here are what some of the kids that have gone through a LEAP program are saying...
“Making good choices is one of the main things that I use now. Before LEAP, I made some choices I’ll never forget. Those choices got me going down the wrong path. I wouldn't be here writing this paragraph if it wasn't for LEAP.” (Male, age 15)
“When we started talking about frustration in LEAP, I said my frustration was my English. But when I started to use positive self-talk, everything changed for me.” (Female, age 16)
“Setting goals was a great thing I’ve learned to do. Before I knew about goal setting, my life was a mess. Setting goals helped me, because now I usually achieve my goals.” (Female, age 16)
“I learned in LEAP that we all have choices and have the power to select what is good or bad for us. We have to be sure that the choices we make have good consequences.” (Male, age 16)
LEAP also partners with De La Salle Academy, East Bay Soldiers, ACE Kids Golf, Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility, Community Youth Center (Concord), and Skate Like a Girl.
LEAP is a non-profit organization that is entirely funded by donations, grants and fundraisers. They happen to be having their largest fundraiser this Sunday, April 29th at 1:00 pm, with The Harlem Wizards returning to Northgate High School in Walnut Creek for the second year in a row to do loops and alley-oops around local teachers and administrators from the local community. Roars of laughter and positive vibes will be raised, not to mention crucial funds for the LEAP Program and the underserved youth it works with. I had the opportunity of attending an assembly at Sequoia Middle School yesterday while Harlem Wizard Miles performed for the 6th graders and boy was I impressed, and from all the screaming I'd say so were they. At 6'9" Miles showed off some very impressive skills, so imagine what you'll see when the whole team is together. I am taking my son to see them, and it just so happens that his English teacher is on the team that will try to dribble around all of these professional ball players!
Thank you Dan for taking the time to educate me on the wonderful things the LEAP program is doing for the underserved youth. I am wishing for an amazingly successful fundraiser with the Harlem Wizards, so that the work being done through LEAP can continue for many, many years to come.
If you'd like to purchase tickets to see The Harlem Wizards and support the LEAP program, click here.