Sionna turns things upside down to get children fit – The Royal Gazette

Created: Aug 08, 2022 08:01 AM

Jag Athletics coaches in fact from left, Maya Beckles and Sionna Barton with (in front from left) Dakota Allen and Abigail Barron (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

As a mother and fitness instructor, Sionna Barton could see a gaping hole in children’s fitness on the island.

“There was no room for youngsters who just wanted to have recreational fun in fitness in the elements of flipping, acrobatics and gymnastics,” Ms Barton said.

“We do have two very good gymnastic operations on the island and they have recreational programmes. But in those programs they are still looking to push you up to the next level, constantly.”

So, last October, Ms Barton, known for her Jump 2 B Fit jump rope programme, formed JAG Athletics for children aged 18 months to 17 years. JAG offers tumbling and acrobatic classes without all the competitiveness.

“We are trying to focus on those kids who just want to flip and not really get into the full sport of gymnastics,” Ms Barton said.

“We just focus on the tumbling aspects and the acrobatic flips that kids want to do. We try to teach them to do it safely. We try to get them to garner more fun in being active.”

Ms Barton felt that after the pandemic lockdowns, Bermuda’s youngsters had become even more sedentary.

One of the advantages of JAG Athletics was that during the ups and downs of pandemic social-distancing requirements it could be run outdoors using simple equipment such as mats.

One participant, Dakota Allen, 5, came to her looking to up her cartwheel game.

“She could do a perfect cartwheel but she wanted to be able to do an aerial, a cartwheel with no hands,” Ms Barton said.

But she did not immediately see about teaching Dakota how to do an aerial.

“You can’t flip if you’re weak, so it’s about gaining strength and confidence and just being outside and getting some activity and fresh air,” Ms Barton said. “I have told her parents that if she sticks with it for another year or two we can start working on the aerial.”

Instead Dakota and other young children in JAG Athletics classes are starting to learn body movement, awareness and shapes.

“We go over a stretching regime making them aware of what shapes will allow them to learn how to flip properly and safely in the future,” Ms Barton said.

Even the littlest children are asked to do some push-ups and sit-ups before bedtime or bath time. The little ones do not always follow through on this request and she is OK with that. She tells them: ‘it will be a happy day when you tell me you did your exercises’.

But she loves watching the children find joy in the program and grow stronger as the program continues, even when they don’t do their sit-ups at home.

“One of our five year olds could not hold herself upside down when she started,” Ms Barton said. “Watching her get into her bridge right now is a beautiful progression.”

One of her biggest challenges running JAG Athletics has been finding space for the programme. The Covid-19 restrictions have made things complicated. For most of this year they have been meeting outdoors at Bernard’s Park in Pembroke.

“We will stay outdoors for the next year but after that we are going to try to find an indoor space,” Ms Barton said. “I would love to offer classes for our youngest children throughout the week. I would love to offer mom and tot sessions. But I really don’t have the continuation of space to set up the equipment and leave it out.”

They are currently running a summer camp at Somersfield Academy in Devonshire until August 13. And her Jump 2 Be Fit program has now resumed.


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