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doi: 10.1097/01.HEARTI.0000418027.80600.f2

Training a New Generation About Health and Fitness (Online Bonus)

Fuerst, Mark

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As the Denver Nuggets' strength and conditioning coach, Steve Hess's job is to keep NBA players in top physical shape. With his upbeat personality, he pushes them to reach their peak condition.

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During his 14-year tenure with the Nuggets, the team has also helped to fill the void of no afterschool sports in Denver's urban community. The Nuggets have picked up the tab for the Nuggets Prep League, which includes 32 middle schools and 6,000 kids who play 13 sports, which makes it the largest athletic league in the state.

“The Nuggets have been a lifesaver for the Denver public schools,” says John Andrew, manager of athletics for the Denver Public Schools. As the program has grown, other professional sports teams in Denver—Major League Baseball's Rockies and the National Football League's Broncos— have added their support. “Nowhere else in the country do all top professional sport teams support one school district like this,” says Andrew.

As a member of the NBA/WNBA FIT team, which is part of the league's comprehensive health and wellness program, Hess has also expanded his reach into the community. “Two years ago, I asked the team if we could do more to give kids a chance to learn about fitness,” he says. With the backing of the NBA and using the pros as a platform, “we now spread the message about fitness and inspire and pump up more than 300 kids each year through our Team Fit program.”

The NBA FIT program is “training a new generation of kids to be conscious of their own health and take pride in being physically fit,” says Andrew. “Hess motivates kids to see themselves as more than just playing sports. They go back to school and show other kids how to work out.”

Hess says his goal “is to change kids' lives. We do that by being legitimate in what we portray. We don't tell them you're going to make it as a pro. The consistent message is make sure you eat right and hydrate correctly to achieve your best. Have a goal and go for it. On the way to achieving a goal, you're having the best life ever.”

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In northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Cavaliers took part in a “Fit as a Pro” Clinic with 25 fourth graders from Center Elementary (the photo above shows the kids and players hanging out after a day of fun). The kids got to see how basketball stars stay in shape with Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, guard/forward Alonzo Gee and assistant strength coach Derek Millender. They participated in endurance and performance drills, and tested their strength on the Cavs' arsenal of exercise equipment. “It's really important for kids to stay fit as they grow up,” says Irving. “NBA Fit as a Pro is a great opportunity to give them a feel for what goes on in our daily lives.”

The Boston Celtics, through the Boston Center for Youth and Family (BCYF), sponsor a Junior Celtics basketball league for 2,000 middle-schoolers in and around Boston. Four times a year the team, in partnership with Covidien, a global healthcare products company, invites 30 to 40 of these players to take part in a “Fit to Win” event, says Ted Dalton, Celtics vice president, corporate partnerships and business development.

During this year's NBA FIT Live Healthy Week, 32 kids from the BCYF Curtis Hall Community Center participated in a Fit to Win event with Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, conditioning coach Bryan Doo and Lucky, the team mascot. “Eat the right types of food and enjoy being young,” Rondo told them. “Don't waste this time in your lives on the couch. Go and hang out with your friends and play a game of basketball, ride a bike or jump rope.”

© 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.