Back in the spring I enrolled my son (4 years old) in a town soccer program for the first time, and despite his initial excitement, he was overwhelmed by the size of the group and spent most of each session crying on the sidelines. After that experience, I talked to some other parents who said their kids had a hard time getting into sports at a young age too. When a short time later, I received a note from Kristen Perkins about the new, inclusive, sports enrichment program (with small group sizes) that she and her husband were launching, I was thrilled. Keep reading to learn more about Kristen and FIT Sports classes, launching in September!
Where are you from originally and what town do you live in now?
I currently live in Danvers with my husband, Greg, and our two children. I grew up in Southern Maine and fell in love with the North Shore during my undergrad years at Endicott College. After college I lived in New York City, Boston, and San Diego, but I found my way back to the North Shore and I’m now here to stay!
How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
We have two little ones, Henry who is four and Harlo who is one and a half.
What’s your favorite family activity on the North Shore?
Our favorite family activities are early morning, weekend walks to downtown Danvers for breakfast and playground hopping around the North Shore.
Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop on the North Shore?
With the kids, we love anywhere quick and preferably with donuts, so Half Baked in Beverly and Brothers Brew Coffee Shop in Rockport are two of our favorites. If we’re able to get out kid-free, we like to enjoy outdoor live music and food like at Party on the Patio at Danversport.
Tell us a little bit about your new business, FIT Sports, and how it got started.
FIT Sports provides inclusive, mobile sports enrichment programs to children in Massachusetts, using innovative behavioral methods to teach sports, fitness, and social skills. Our programs are designed by physical education, behavioral, and inclusion experts to introduce children to a variety of sports through a series of lessons focused on skill building. Our coaches complete a robust training program to support them with program implementation and working with children with diverse abilities. We aspire to change the way that sports are taught to children through skill building, sportsmanship, leadership, confidence, and kindness.
Greg and I founded FIT Sports with a shared passion for building an inclusive community, and to address a gap in the available sports enrichment programs that are inclusive for all children. Many youth sports programs try their best at supporting children with diverse abilities, but without an intentionally designed adaptive curriculum, small class sizes, and trained coaches who can creatively problem solve on the spot, they often fall short. Creating an inclusive program requires an ongoing assessment of what barriers exist that are preventing children from participating (physical, developmental, social, geographic, socioeconomic, etc.) and finding solutions that enable the child to participate in the existing programming, rather than creating separate sub-groups for certain children. When children are moving their bodies and feeling connected to each other, they are happier and healthier, so we want to provide opportunities for physical activity and relationship building for all children.
What sports do you focus on?
Our program is designed so that each month we focus our classes on one sport. For four weeks, children practice the basic skills within each sport in addition to strengthening appropriate social skills. This fall, we will be starting the program with soccer, followed by baseball and football!
What is the age range for FIT Sports’ programs?
The age range of the children we serve will be an evolving process as we continue to receive feedback from parents on their interest in the program. Currently we serve children aged 18 months to 12 years old.
When does the first session of FIT Sports programming begin?
FIT Sports membership classes will begin Saturday, September 11th! We offer weekend classes as well as weeknight classes.
Where do FIT Sports classes take place?
We have recently entered into a partnership with Danvers Recreation, and we’re excited about the positive impact we will have on the community together. Through our partnership, we will be using the fields at Riverside School (95 Liberty Street) in Danvers for weekend classes and Williams School/Danvers Art Association (105 Elliott Street) in Danvers for weeknight classes. Fall classes will run at the fields from September 11th until November 28th , at which point we will be planning to move indoors to gym space as long as there are no COVID restrictions on use.
How is FIT Sports different from other local sports programs?
FIT Sports is more than just a high-quality, inclusive, sports program. Our small class sizes, personalized coaching, and skill development tools enable our program to be customized to the child, rather than trying to fit the child into the program. As parents ourselves, we understand the importance of parent support in enrichment programs, so we provide parent/child classes for all ages and monthly skills to work on at home with your child, to create opportunities for connection outside of class. Greg, our Co-Founder and President, is always accessible to parents so that their voice is heard, and their children have the best experience possible.
In addition, through our program design, we introduce children to a variety of sports, which research suggests builds a more diverse skill set as well as has improved athletic outcomes for children that specialize in sports later in life.
Finally, to us, being an inclusive program extends beyond including children of all abilities. An inclusive program must reflect the communities we are trying to serve, and we must work to eliminate any barriers that prevent families from enrolling their children in our classes. One way we do this is through our scholarship program, Play It Forward, which provides monthly memberships to children whose families are experiencing financial hardship. Through private donations and donation-only classes, we give 100% of donations (after coach’s fee) to the scholarship program. In addition, by offering donation-only classes we enable families, who may not be able to afford the membership fee, to attend classes weekly..
You and your husband own FIT Sports together, how do you balance launching a new business with parenthood…any tips?The start-up of FIT Sports, with each of us having demanding full time jobs and two little ones has been challenging. Progress happens in the early morning, late at night and during our lunch breaks, so time management has been the most important way we’ve made this work. We start every week with a list of FIT Sports priorities and divide and conquer together. Taking time to ourselves is something we’re trying to be really intentional about during this process, but it’s something I’ve always struggled with and I need reminders so I don’t reach the point of running on empty. Despite the challenges, this work is incredibly energizing, and we know from conversations with parents already that if we let our mission guide the way, we will bring a lot of value to families in the North Shore and beyond.
What is the best piece of mom advice you ever received?
I went through a period when Henry was about 9 months old when I felt like I was never doing enough for him. He was healthy and happy but I was focused more on what I wasn’t doing instead of all that I was doing. A few close friends helped me reset the expectations I have for myself as a mom, and I’ve been able to let a lot go ever since.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you need some “me” time?
My ideal date with myself is to get up early, grab a coffee, pick a beach to sit at, and read a good book.
This post is sponsored by FIT Sports.