Horace Mann Elementary Stays Thunder Fit

Wednesday’s Thunder Fit Clinic, presented by Homeland, might inspire a new take on an old football phrase.

On any given Sunday, anyone can win, the football phrase goes. But our Thunder coaching staff today showed that in any given gym, anyone can learn the game.

Even when the “gym” isn’t really a gym at all.

The entire Thunder coaching staff, led by Head Coach Scott Brooks, taught about 70 fourth- through sixth-graders fundamental lessons in fitness, nutrition and basketball at Horace Mann Elementary in Oklahoma City.

No matter where they go – whether it’s the Chesapeake Energy Arena or an oversized elementary school classroom – these guys can coach, and they proved it today by leading the students through cardio work, nutrition lessons, dribbling skills and passing drills with just as much focus and energy as they’d give to professional players.

In addition to the hands-on lessons they passed along about keeping fit and healthy, the coaches stressed another key element to staying active: having fun.

“It’s so important to have fun,” said Brooks. “This is a great game. It’s a great way to stay in shape; it’s a great opportunity for all the kids to … develop a love of the game. “That’s what we try to demonstrate – our passion for the game,” he added.

It’s that passion that can inspire kids to keep with basketball or other healthy activities and to make better choices down the road.

In sharing their passion, the coaches didn’t just lead drills. They also talked about nutrition; Assistant Coach Rex Kalamian emphasized the importance of eating a good breakfast. They answered questions, from how tall you have to be to play in the NBA (height doesn’t matter as much as hard work does, Brooks told them) to what they do when they’re not practicing or coaching basketball. Assistant Coach Maurice Cheeks fielded that question, telling the kids that his favorite thing to do outside of basketball is to spend time with his family.

All the coaches showed that they try to set an example for the young men they coach by staying in shape and eating right themselves – just as they did today for the Horace Mann students by leading the Thunder Fit.

Regardless of what space you have, what equipment is on hand or what you’re interested in, the coaches stressed that fitness can – and should – be a part of kids’ everyday lives.

Backing the coaching staff up on that lesson was Ron Matthews, the Thunder’s director of Digital Media and Publications, who isn’t a pro coach, but he still makes time for staying fit.

“You just need a little bit of floor space to carve out,” Matthews said. “If you have a band, anything to tug on, any resistance, you can work all your body parts.

“My goal here is to try to make it fun for the kids [and] give them something they can take home … As long as you build a daily habit, [keeping fit] becomes part of who you are.”

Be it in a pro arena or playground, backyard or basement, anyone can coach – and anyone can learn to stay fit – by forming good habits and having some fun.

And maybe that’s a lesson that will someday carry these kids to a healthier lifestyle, or even to an NBA court.