Saturday, July 17, 2010

PBATS 2010 "Play" Clinic

"A lot of people I know have desk jobs," stated Lee Kuntz, Head Athletic Trainer for Our Washington Nationals. "They sit around and you see that mindset filter down to their kids and you start saying to yourself: 'Man, when I was a kid we ran the neighborhood all day.' We need to get them away from that way of life. And I feel this program helps me give back a little bit of my childhood--by showing kids how to get out there and have some fun."

The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society held their latest "Play" Clinic at Nationals Park last week. Over 100 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs Of Greater Washington were on hand to participate in a now annual event designed to get kids from out in front on their TV's and Video Game consoles and participate in a more active and healthy way of life. Over the past two decades, a more sedentary lifestyle has led to a higher rate of Type 2 Diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes). The prevalent eating of processed foods hasn't help either. The growing list of overweight children and adults has led to more hip replacement and knee surgeries later in life. Disabilities that will continue to rise unless something is done about it.

"This is an effort as trainers we thought was a worthy cause, promoting play, promoting a lifetime of activity for youth," continued Mr. Kuntz. "And being on the medical end of things, we’ve seen how later in life Type 2 Diabetes has affected a lot of these younger adults. And how that is now filtering down to an even younger population--the children. In our discussions with the physicians it has all come full circle. We need to maintain an active lifestyle and that will help take care of these problems later in life."

The PBATS "Play" Clinic is designed to show kids that physical activity can be fun, not something to shy away from. Four stations were set up around the South Capitol Street Ballpark. The children rotating through each activity session with Lee Kuntz, Mike McGowan (Washington's Assistant Athletic Trainer), Don Hooton from The Taylor Hooton Foundation plus Nationals' Pitchers Drew Storen and Matt Capps as instructors.

"When I was a kid, there was no encouragement needed," said Matt Capps. "We had one of the original Nintendo’s, but I was outside all the time. Rain, snow, sleet or hail, I wanted to be outside. I was out in the woods playing war as a little kid. I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids around my age. We were always playing sports. In the summertime, it was baseball, and in the wintertime it was basketball or football. It didn’t matter how many layers of clothes we had to put on. It didn’t matter how cold it was, or how wet it was out there--we were outside more times than not."

"But it’s different now because there are a lot more video games," continued Drew Storen. "For me, and I am sure Matt is the same way, I would go out and play in the front yard to play whiffle ball. I wanted to pitch a lot. And where I learned to love to pitch was in the front yard--acting like my favorite player pitching. Well now, the kids can do that by just turning on the video game equipment, start playing and acting like that. So it’s different now and it’s important that we encourage them to get outside, be healthy and have some fun. Video games are fun, but by actually getting outside and playing, you can’t beat the enjoyment of the physical competition. That’s where the fun really is."

Reaching the kids in a forum like this can be a tough task though, that's why Lee Kuntz always tries to speak to the parents whenever possible. Washington's Head Athletic Trainer believes if he can encourage the parents to get outside with their children participating in a physical activity, it's easter for the young men and women to understand the benefits.

Lee Kuntz: "For us it’s all about having fun. If you make an event fun, then that will stick in their heads. Hey, that wasn’t that bad. And maybe they will take a piece of that home. I try to do things with my kids at home. We try go to out and play ball-tag. Or we will throw a football or a frizbee. We will do something. But it’s a way for parents to become involved with their children and have fun. When the kids think it’s fun, both (parent and child) can take something away from it."

Mr. Kuntz led the Boys & Girls Club Participants through a series of agility drills. Mike McGowan taught the proper techniques for stretching. Don Hooton gave his "Hoot's Chalk Talk" discussing performance enhancing drugs while Matt Capps & Drew Storen instructed proper pitching techniques. PBATS "Play" Clinic concluded with Capps & Storen throwing soft toss to the kids in a Home Run Derby set up in right field at Nationals Park.

"We have to change the mindset and that’s what these clinics are for," believes Drew Storen. "Hopefully, we can open some eyes and get them to understand the importance of exercise."

"Let's get them out of the house. Let them do some physical stuff," concluded Lee Kuntz.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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