With the start of school beginning soon, parents of younger children are looking for things to do, and Little Ballers is doing just that with their program that offers education and physical activity.

"So, Little Ballers is a basketball fundamental and movement fundamental program for preschool-age children and earlier children, if our participants can walk, so basically starting at like 10-11 months, they can join with a parent, and then it goes up to eight years old," says Amy Ogidan Barlow, co-founder of Little Ballers. "The bulk of our programming is preschool-age kids that haven't started school yet, but then we do have a section for five to eight-year-olds that we call Big Ballers."

Barlow, along with her co-founder, Chad Celaire, came up with the idea together. They met when Barlow and her husband moved to the same community area as Celaire and his family. After meeting at the park and having a few interactions together, Celaire shared his passion for basketball and kids with Barlow and the duo created Little Ballers.

"Both Amy and I are parents," says Celaire. "and we have young children that we're parenting and for me, when I had my first I was kind of sitting at home twiddling my thumbs, wondering what do I do, what can I do with my kid? So, I put him in some programs and realized that he really liked basketball and thought it would be great to find a program that I can put him in where he could learn some basketball skills and there were none. So, that kind of put a seed in my head to maybe start a program that could be a developmental program for really, really young kids."

Celaire says that the need for programs like this is crucial to encourage active lifestyles from a young age, he also frowns upon the digitalization era that the world is in.

"I guess in our world now there's a lot of obsessions that a lot of kids have to video games and stuff, things that, in my mind, aren't really physically active. Maybe exercising your thumb, but that's about it and also a movement to everything becoming electric, like electric bikes and scooters. To me I'm like, man, this is gonna kill the kids' drive to be physically active. So, a program like this address that, it gives parents an opportunity to have something that they can put their kid into where they're going to receive some good coaching, and attention and gives them something to be able to look forward to and to help create an idea of what it's like to be on a team, to socialize with others."

It also teaches young children the fundamentals of education, such as literacy, movement and colours.

"We focus on fun and physical literacy and movement. So, we kind of sprinkle in basketball and we do basketball skills and games or it's incorporated. But the number one thing that we're trying to address is an environment where kids feel safe, where they can have fun, where they can run around and burn off energy, and where they can learn communication and people skills through teamwork, which is definitely something that will serve them when they go into school and when they're ready to be in school," says Barlow.

Little Ballers will be offered in two separate locations. Soul Sanctuary, where classes are to be held on Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon, although time reevaluation will be discussed. Balmoral Hall School is the second location, it will begin Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

"So, the first session starts at 9:15 a.m., and then there are 45 minute long sessions with a 15 minute break before the next one."

Anyone interested in signing their children up for Little Ballers can register on their website. Barlow says that they are also very active on their Instagram and Facebook pages, which give parents an idea of how the program works. 

From engineering to ministry

Celaire revealed that he attended the University of Regina in engineering, he was on the basketball team but something did not feel right.

"I had done a work term and basically came to the conclusion that if this is what I have to do for the rest of my life, I'm going to really hate my job. At the same time, I was playing basketball and not really finding fulfillment in it."

He says that he was not getting any time on the court and fell into a state of depression.

"It was at that time that someone's my English class gave me an invitation to go to this event called The Celebrations of Champions, which was an event put on by Athletes in Action and I think the main speaker at that event was Pinball Clemons [Michael Lutrell Clemons]. He was speaking about his experience and finding meaning inlife and encouraging people to find their meaning in God and what he said really spoke to me where I was and then from then on, I met the organizer of that event called Harold Cooper. He was the chaplain for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and he took me under his wing and that summer Harold offered me a job to be the director of camps for Athletes in Action. I was like, man, I don't know a whole lot about God but what will I be doing? He laid it out for me what I'd be doing and that summer I became director and I did a bunch of camps. In that process, I was like, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life."