Written by Jeff Say and published in the Culpeper Times, March 8, 2018. Also available on insidenova.com

Culpeper Sport and Fitness Club is participating in the youth movement.

The longtime Culpeper business (formerly known as the Culpeper Sport and Racquet Club) is putting more of a focus on youth programs, ever since being purchased by Culpeper Wellness Foundation Sept. 1, 2017.

Shari Landry, President, Culpeper Wellness Foundation, said that was a main part of the focus when CWF started discussing purchasing the business from Culpeper Sport and Fitness manager Preston Will.

“We were looking to expand the Powell (Wellness) facility and discovered we were not going to be able to do that in the near term,” Landry said. “We wanted to expand our services, to serve more young people. There was an opportunity to purchase the business here.”

Will, who has been a member since he was 5, was open to selling the business and has stayed on as manager.

“I thought there was a great opportunity to combine forces, and do better for the community,” Will said.

On a recent Wednesday groups of students took tennis lessons the green artificial indoor courts while other athletes participated in sports performance classes – focusing on agility, speed, strength and balance.

They are also working with youth organizations like Kid Central and Young Life to partner on other programs. They recently hosted Young Life for a pickleball tournament and Kids Central will have 30 kids coming out each week.

“We’re just starting to try to introduce more programs for youth,” Will said. “We’re inviting families to come participate in classes together.”

Pickleball is like tennis, ping pong and beach paddle ball in one sport. Children play with a wiffleball play with a paddle on a miniature sized tennis court.

Classes like pickleball appeal to the younger generation but the fitness club doesn’t stray too far from its roots as well, offering tennis lessons for a reasonable $7.50 per class per child.

“What we try to do is keep the tennis for the little ones as reasonable as possible,” Will said.

Their rates are also reasonable, $36 per month for a single plan, $65 a month for a couple and $73 a month for a family plan. Family plans also include daycare. Members at Powell Wellness Center can also purchase a total fitness package, providing them access to both facilities.

“We offer scholarships for people here as well,” Landry said. “I think it’s not well-known. We have more people at Powell who take advantage of it.”

Scholarships are offered for residents within 200 percent of the poverty line and below, for example a family of four at 200 percent above poverty line is $49,200.

The 15 members of staff, including three full time, work with the young athletes to help prepare them for whatever sport they are interested in. Will, also Eastern View High School’s boys tennis coach, said that his team along with the Cyclones’ football team has been in.

“We’re really just getting started and the word is just beginning to get out,” Landry said. “We really want to develop and offer activities for kids that they are interested in. If there’s nothing to do, tell us what you want.”

Will pointed out that even if kids aren’t interested in sports, they can utilize the upstairs room at the club just to do homework, in an effort to get them acclimated to the facility.

“The possibilities are really endless, we are only limited by our imagination,” Landry said. “We’re open to looking at developing anything that lets kids be more active and live a healthier lifestyle.”

Despite being in the community for 31 years, people still are often unaware the club exists.

“Every day there’s somebody who comes by and says ‘I had no idea you were out here,’” Will said.

“I was shocked at how many people didn’t know how many people didn’t know this was here,” Landry said.

Other programs being discussed include Girls Acing Life (GALS), a program similar to Piedmont Girls on the Run Piedmont.

“We’re going to piggyback off that a little bit and do some of the things they are doing,” Will said.

Physical activity will be based around tennis and pickleball, while another component will focus on  activities and mentoring.

“This for us is really a pilot project to see if we can get kids engaged in activities,” Landry said.

The fitness center is open Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is located at 19055 Industrial Road, Culpeper.