• Cassandra Shoneck, CPT

Building a Village, or: Our Adorable Little Futures

As many of you probably know, (because I haven’t really shut up about it…), I attended CrossFit’s CrossFit Kids Seminar this past weekend. There were so many amazing things covered during the course that my mind is still spinning full of inspiration and information. Not only from the “technical” stuff...but the “why” stuff. The really important stuff. The core of why childrens’ programs are so essential, even though these programs are unfortunately a seemingly dying breed these days.

Like I said, at the seminar, we talked about a lot of technical things. We covered why teaching our kids to love fitness is so important. Starting them early with correct movement patterns is crucial to their physical development. Getting them moving correctly regularly and incorporating exercises that maximize dense bone growth and that challenge their vestibular systems not only helps ensure they will grow healthy and strong on the outside, but these things are scientifically proven to benefit mental and emotional health as well. Studies are conclusive that taking part in a regular, age-appropriate fitness program boosts brain function and improves school performance as well as behavioral issues. These kinds of classes also help instill a strong work ethic. A sense of pride and accomplishment. If they fail, they learn self-recovery. If they win, they do so with integrity and (some) humility. (Come on, they’re kids. We’ll let ‘em gloat a little.) ;) Technically… scientifically… the benefits are amazing.

However, one of my favorite discussions from the weekend was more of a “why” subject. It had to do with how important it is for us to "build a village" as fitness professionals working with kids.

I’m sure we can all agree that the state of society today is far from where we started thousands of years ago. By nature we, as humans, thrive in a group setting. Humans are social creatures. We form tribes, communities, families, etc. for many reasons. Emotional stability. Companionship. Entertainment. But more importantly, our ancestors did this simply for survival. For the sheer convenience of it. If you don’t have a strong support circle around you in life, how much harder is, um, everything?! We've evolved away from this and I think it should be considered a real shame. Especially where our kids are concerned.

The phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" is very true. So very true. Parents, I don’t have children. But I love them. I understand them. I know how precious and important they are. And although I don’t raise my own, I can imagine that even on your very best gold-star parenting days, you still have a couple moments where you probably want to rip your hair out or hide in the bathroom for a few hours. This is to be expected when we’ve evolved so far away from our community-driven roots. It’s natural! You are normal! When humans live and function in groups, it takes a good portion of that constant pressure off the parents. Suddenly, there are built-in babysitters in this setting. There are multiple strong male figures for young boys to look up to and emulate. Little girls learn from a collective pool of womanly knowledge and skill. Though it’s not as easy or common to find this kind of community occurring naturally in our modern-day society anymore, we can do our best to create a pretty darn good substitute of one for ourselves and for our children.

Enter our schools. Enter extracurricular sports and clubs. Enter camp. Enter church. Games and hobbies and sleepovers and trips. Grandma, grandpa, the neighbors, teachers, our law officers, program instructors and friends. All of these things and people make up our present-day “tribe”. They make up our village. We rely on these things. We trust in these people. They, in some way and to some extent, are helping to raise our children to be stronger, healthier, smarter, more productive and happy members of society.

Which is exactly why I loved this discussion about “building a village” so much and how we can use CrossFit Kids programs and general kids’ fitness classes to do so. It really drove home for me the tantamount importance of why these things are so imperative not only to our children, but to society as a whole. As instructors/ coaches/ teachers/ leaders of our youth, we play a vital role in shaping our world by giving these kids (or sadly, not giving them, if we neglect these duties!) every possible advantage in growing up successful. We will be handing them this beautiful damaged planet of ours and entrusting them with its care and keeping as well as our own as we age. They are, quite literally, our future.

As the weekend’s activities and lectures unfolded, I looked around and knew that some of these people sitting next to me would go on to do great things. Yes, we were all being given the knowledge and tools to be good class instructors and coaches. But the potential to do so much more with it than that…was mind blowing for me. And I definitely know I want to do great things. I don’t want to just run a kids program. I want to be part of your village. I want to help be part of building a strong circle of support for parents and guardians. I want our program to not only teach, inspire and push our young minds to greater heights -- I want to instill a love for greatness in these kiddos and create healthy lifelong habits that will make them better people. This is no small task and not a responsibility I take lightly. I also want our program to be a place of guidance, education and support to the parents who are looking for it. Fitness professionals are in the business of being “preventionists” -- it’s a proactive field by nature. Through nutrition, fitness and correct movement, our goal is to, maybe not put doctors (a “reactive” profession) out of business, but to at least make sure they can take a lot more time off of work when it comes to our future generations.

If I can accomplish these things, even in some small way in my community, I will be able to say I not only followed my dreams, but that my “footprints” on this planet had a positive impact and made a difference. I was part of that essential, influential village and what I did mattered. Talk about “meaning of life” and finding a “purpose”...for me personally, that’s pretty big deal stuff.


Cassandra Shoneck is a Certified Personal Trainer (NASM), CrossFit L1 Trainer, and CrossFit Kids Coach as well as a health and nutrition NUT! If she's not working out, training clients or creating healthy new recipes in the kitchen, she can be found reading and studying the latest articles and research regarding general fitness, nutrition & food, and how the body processes it all. She can be contacted at


"Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work." ~Aristotle


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