Fort Belvoir Youth Sports and Fitness hosted Start Smart sports training Wednesday at Specker Field House.

This special program helps children ages 3-6 develop the basic motor skills and coordination necessary to excel in team athletics once they are old enough to participate in organized leagues.

An important aspect of the class is that the players' parents are present and directly involved in the activities.

Start Smart teaches skills in a wide variety of sports during the year. Wednesday evening's training camp focused on soccer skills, with Youth Sports and Fitness assistant director Julie Libert and athletics trainer Aricka Vaughan providing instruction to 27 participants.

"This program teaches the fundamentals," said Libert. "And it's a parent-child class. They work together (to learn the sport) and it also gives them time to bond. In a busy week, how often does a parent get to go and play with their child to teach their child something?"

The Start Smart program is attracts a large number of participants because it has developed a reputation as a quality class according to Libert.

"We've had some people come from other bases," she said, "and they've said that we have a very good program here. The turnout is always good. We have 27 (students) in this class. Monday night we had 25 for soccer, Tuesday night's football class has 22. We have another 18 kids in Tuesday-night soccer and another 18 in (Friday's) football class. So we have well over 100 in the program now."

The Smart Start program has been developed to provide athletic learning opportunities to every child on Fort Belvoir, regardless of ability.

"We have also partnered with the (Exceptional Family Member Program) in order for (special needs) kids to have their own class, so they feel more comfortable" Libert said. "The EFMP class is available for kids age 3-10, and we adapt the class to the level of challenge (any one athlete) may have."

Smart Start offers instruction in soccer and football during the fall months and provides training for other sports at different times throughout the year.

"We do this three times a year," Libert said. "In January we'll start basketball and sports development. And in the spring, we'll do baseball, soccer (we do soccer a couple of times a year), and golf."

The Start Smart program has not only been popular with the young athletes around Fort Belvoir, but parents are finding the classes to be enjoyable and rewarding as well, noting the importance of flexibility.

"The kids really love it," said EFMP parent Karla Schuneman, whose daughter Rebecca, 7, participates in Start Smart. "Our EFMP children are able to focus on their ability and not feel pressured. We have a diverse group here (at Belvoir) and this is a great program (to have available). They practice and they're all getting better. Their coordination is improving."

Additional information regarding Start Smart, as well as Fort Belvoir's sports and fitness program as a whole, is available on the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation website at www.belvoir, or by calling Child Youth and School Services at (703) 806-0791 or Youth Sports and Fitness assistant director Julie Libert at (703) 805-9138.