Nearly 50 of Fort Belvoir's youngest sports enthusiasts got an introduction to tennis and soccer during a Child, Youth and School Services Start Smart athletic training session May 22 at Specker Field House.
Start Smart is the installation's effort to help military dependent children ages 3-5 learn the basics of sports and to develop the skills necessary to compete on organized teams once they reach qualifying age, according to Jerry Arrington, CYSS sports and fitness director.
"The Start Smart program started after the National Alliance for Youth Sports (a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization that aims to make the sports experience safe, fun and healthy for all children) conducted a survey in 1989 and determined that children in the 3-5 year-old age group didn't have the motor skills they would need to play sports later," Arrington said. "So we developed the Start Smart program to teach and develop those skills to get the children better prepared to start out in the (organized) leagues when they're old enough."
Arrington, as well as Julie Libert, CYSS sports assistant director; Rashward Pope, CYSS sports and fitness specialist; and Travis Souza, CYSS sports and fitness specialist, conduct the Start Smart classes a various times during the year.
"In the spring we do the Start Smart baseball, soccer and golf, and we've added tennis to the program for 2013," Arrington said.
"We do this three times a year," Libert added. "In January we'll start basketball and sports development." Football conditioning is offered in the fall."
The May 22 session focused on tennis and soccer. The latter, according to Arrington, had to be expanded to accommodate the growing interest in the sport on post. "Soccer is always the biggest class for us because so many of the children's brothers and sisters play in the youth program here and they're interested in playing, too," Arrington said.
The children spent the hour-long session learning how to develop and execute a variety of tennis and soccer skills under the watchful eyes of Arrington and Libert.
"For tennis we teach the basics of serving, returning and developing balance and coordination. For soccer we work on four main skills -- dribbling, kicking, stopping the ball and throwing the ball in," Arrington said.
Libert added that the turnout has been consistently good every year for all the sports.
Excitement and smiles of accomplishment shone clearly among the young participants and the many parents who assisted throughout the evening, reflecting what Arrington, Libert and their staff hope is the ultimate result of Start Smart instruction.
"The children learn and they have fun; that's what it's all about," Arrington said.
Additional information regarding the Start Smart program, as well as Fort Belvoir's sports and fitness program as a whole, is available at, or by calling CYSS at (703) 806-0791, Jerry Arrington at (703) 805-9139, or Julie Libert at (703) 805-9138.