By Ali Renckens
Many attributes are connected to being an effective leader including responsibility, organization, caring and vision, but one quality that is not usually listed is physical ability. The YMCA Leaders Club is a program that encourages teen leadership largely through physical activity.
Dan Ribas, who facilitates the Campo YMCA branch of the club, describes the club as “a program to help instill leadership qualities and the values of the YMCA in teens, and also to get them out in the community and give back to the community.” Ribas said, “But our goal is that leaders will know how to lead, are aware of their decisions and are fit, so we have a fitness component to it as well.”
Many of the club’s activities are centered on physical activity, such as taking fitness tests, running, circuit training, spinning and group exercise.
“Every meeting we’ll have a fitness component to it that we’ll try to do 15-20 minutes of. We try to keep it different each time so that no one’s getting bored with it. It’s definitely a fun part of the program. When it’s fitness time, everybody’s like, ‘Aww, we don’t really want to do it,’ but we always have a blast.”
Students also participate in rallies with leaders across the state and can apply to attend the Blue Ridge Leaders’ School where 600-700 leaders from across the southeast meet to hone their leadership skills.
“It gives them an outlet, a way to give back to the community and the chance to be around other kids who are positive and like-minded, and I’ve definitely seen it impact the students,” said Ribas. “I’ve seen it help with physical activity and fitness. A lot of our students actually work at the Y as well and I can see the impact in their work ethic and their leadership qualities through what they do at work.”
The club year coincides with the school year with recruitment for next year’s club beginning in August. The club is open to 7-12 graders with facility or program YMCA memberships. Currently the club meets at the Campo YMCA every Monday from 6:30-8 p.m. Since the year is coming to a close, no new members are being accepted, but Ribas encourages interested students to sit in on a meeting.
“It gives them an idea of what it’s about so when next year rolls around you have a better idea to go off of,” said Ribas. More information on the club is available by visiting tampaymca.org and selecting the Campo YMCA link or contacting Ribas at dan.ribas@tampa ymca.org.