Friday, April 15, 2016

WeeZee World in Chappaqua Makes the Sports Basics Fun

Other than the positive outcomes we all seek in athletics, sports provide so many lessons that when a child keeps herself out of them because of ability, this translates to a definite disadvantage in life. So suffering through poor balance or limited coordination would still probably equal itself out in terms of what can be gained by the experience of simply persevering.  That said, Louise Weadock of Briarcliff could acknowledge the painful truth as a mother of three and founder of Chappaqua’s WeeZee – World of “Yes, I Can!” But her aim of improving those outcomes is much more fundamental than an upgrade in such basics as being able to track a
fastball in accordance to the crack of the bat.

“Truly,” she says, “What we want is a happy kid.”

Thus priming up the basics (and possibly the drudgery that would accompany them otherwise) becomes a slight of hand at WeeZee that parents have always tried at dinner time. “It’s like hiding the peas under the mashed potatoes,” says the registered Child Psychiatric Nurse and graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Inside the old Reader’s Digest compound on Bedford Road, children aged one to 12 – of all athletic acumen and aspirations – won't likely be disturbed by the deception found in the 15,000 square feet of amusement. A mix of state of the art technology and good old fashioned playground ingenuity, the initial engagement emerges via vibration.

The Vibration Station encompasses a surface that serious athletes use to loosen their muscles and extricate the lactic acid. Chugging like a chu-chu, the station's locomotive exterior entices them in and the science helps stimulate a calmness. "This enables the kids to focus more on the activities that we have planned for them," says WeeZee Manager of Research and Development, Paul Rowe.

On the other hand, if technology has diminished their movement as video game over-enthusiasts, WeeZee works with the dynamic in order to enhance the endurance they need to succeed. A video game is mounted right onto the stationary bike and beating the machine to better fitness is a function of speed, pace and strategy.

Of course, endurance will only take your game so far. Standing your ground on any field of play begins with balance. “Rather than having people walk on balance beams,” says Weadock, “We have a mechanical surf board.”

Up and down, back and forth, kids ride the virtual wave and adjust along with the speed and exaggerated motion. Plenty of cushioning to wipe out on, mastery also means being able to spell their name or recite a phone number. Working both hemispheres of the brain – or more aptly – thinking on their feet, says Rowe, “It’s like playing the outfield requires not only the physical skills to catch the ball but the decision making skills to throw to the right base.”

Moving higher up along the digital divide, Makoto takes that – and a few more senses – to the next level. Used by the professionals, the device creates audio-peripheral synergy for the child. With four vertical sensors, users stand at the center of the grid and react to the beams of light and sound.

On the field, Makoto's applications associate to a running back taking the audio cue from a defender on his heals to help hone his escape or an outfielder must identify the call of the cutoff man to his back so he can properly turn to the play after picking up the ball. In the latter, says Rowe, "the wrong turn can easily be the difference between a double or an out.”

Extra innings hopefully avoided, a hanging of heavy bags draws the younger ones and their punches toward
the mini boxing ring, where they exchange 1,2’s through the softened blows of giant inflatable gloves. “It gets
them started and then we get into active footwork and speed drills,” says Rowe.

Enthusiasm and high tops sufficiently elevated, kids can really step it up with Trampoline Basketball. Dual enclosed trampolines with openings facing each other, two jumpers try to rise above the barrier and score cushioned balls into the opposing player's goal. It’s a core muscle builder and also improves hand/eye
coordination – especially in regards to volleyball players and goaltenders, says Rowe.

Of course, when human competition comes into play in the offerings, WeeZee helps minimize the school yard politics by always addressing the dynamic of defeat and victory. But WeeZee believes applying strategic thinking to figure out what brought about the wrong outcome is the best lesson in easing the anxiety.

On the other hand, the Sports Simulator leaves itself out of the discussion and remains tight lipped to the children’s real time/real object interaction. “They can blast an actual hockey puck past the pixel generated goalie or hit a video projected receiver zipping across the 10 by 10 foot screen, says Rowe.

BATAK aligns along a similar technological plane but steps backs as a builder of the basics. Improving peripheral reflexes, the user stands in front of the flat, vertical device and scores by hand touching the
random sequence of lights. It’s most commonly used for tennis players who want to improve their serve and volley play at the net, he says.

Otherwise, if spherical based sports are not your thing, the Swing Park of hanging tires and pulley devices give future gymnasts a leg up. “These systems allow you to get a better sense of how your body hangs in space,” he says.

Finally, the Little Pro Section is simply Weezee on a smaller scale for the one to three year olds, but while the playscape certainly has a front and back, order is the least important aspect of it. “There are so many different things to do that even if the child doesn’t engage, what he’s usually doing is walking around the 15,000 square feet, touching base and dabbling in everything along the way,” says Weadock. “Then they’ll nestle in and find their own thing that they are into.”

Not to worry, WeeZee’s GPS tracker system reports back on their journey and provides a sensory assessment of destinations and durations. Off that, says Weadock, “We can come up with a plan based on goals.”

But the easily tracked athletic improvements aren’t the only differences parents will see, as WeeZee’s intervention enables kids to stay more in the moment, while increasing focus. As a result, she says, “They are going to be able to sit down and be a lot more creative when writing those essays and have more of an attention span to analyze and synthesize in class.”

Parents don’t need a report card to measure that benefit. The same goes for seeing WeeZee as a place that has something for everyone, while creating an atmosphere in which their children can continue to grow into, according WeeZee's enthusiastic feedback.

Forget the peas  – that’s called gravy and WeeZee is happy to dish it with the potatoes any day of the week.

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