The impact of a teacher who encouraged Nick Mann to try out his elementary school’s running program has stuck with him his entire life. It’s no surprise then, that Nick’s passion is impacting his community’s youth. It’s easier to establish healthy habits from a young age than it is to switch to healthy habits when you’re older. Often for adults, it takes a bad event or negative health news to inspire them to get their lives and fitness in order. What if he could inspire a generation to have their lives and fitness in order in the first place?
Filling a Need
When Nick decided to open his business, he knew he wanted to impact youth as well as adults. “I see a lack of services of a high-quality environment,” he says. “We see not only obesity in adults, but childhood obesity. Kids are on their phones or playing video games. They’re not outside being active, being healthy.” The food industry isn’t in the business of helping with that, and it all adds up to a real need for health, fitness, and quality for youth that isn’t being served by anything else.
Now, after three years of knocking on middle and high school doors and talking to school leaders to get things rolling, Nick has summer camps and after-school programs for the youth of the community.
It’s easy to confuse ‘after-school program’ with ‘daycare.’ Don’t do it. “I’m not rolling out balls for them to play with, with no real structure,” Nick says. “We teach leadership and teamwork.” Your kid is going to sweat, learn, and be a better person.
The progress is not only physical, but also emotional and mental. Nick had a kid who started the program as extremely overweight and unable do a sit-up five months ago. When a new kid started and was struggling, that kid was the first to walk over and help him. That kid is now doing extra sit-ups with the new kid to make him feel comfortable. “A kid had compassion for another kid in the realm of just being a human,” Nick says. “That was worth more than anything.” That’s why impacting the youth of the community is his passion project.
A Memorable Kid
Kids with disabilities can easily fall through the cracks. Sometimes they’re actively pushed through the cracks. Nick is not interested in the cracks. “I gave a scholarship to a young man who was profoundly deaf and was unable to play sports,” Nick says. “A lot of coaches wouldn’t give him the opportunity because they couldn’t communicate.” That kid’s teacher was one of the members of Nick’s gym, Occoquan Bay Performance. She brought him in, and signed for Nick and his coaches on the first day. But Nick knew the kid didn’t need the signing. “I’ll demonstrate, he’ll figure it out,” Nick says. And he did.
One day as they were just throwing a football around the gym, that left-handed kid threw a spiral across 5,000 square feet. The great potential and untapped abilities were astounding. A few months later, he made the wrestling team at his school, and after Nick was able to attend a match, he came up and gave Nick a big hug. “I was like man, this is what it’s all about,” Nick says. “Impact.” And years from now, when that kid is in a nursing home, Nick wants him to be able to think back to one day in a gym throwing a football around when it clicked for him that he could do anything he wanted.
Establishing the Lifestyle
“I’m super excited about the youth program,” Nick says. “[They] work really hard and they love the after-school program.” The program meets for three days a week, which is great for kids who haven’t done much fitness before, but many of them wanted more. They have so much energy. So Nick started inviting some of them to Occoquan Bay Performance on the after-school program’s two off-days. “I’m excited to see that program grow,” he says. “I would love to just have youth everywhere.”
The program has kids as young as eight years old. Nick loves that they are able to establish a lifestyle and mindset of health and fitness in kids that they can carry forth for years to come. “That’s the biggest impact we can make,” he says.