One of the key initiatives under our Active U Project is the Boys Gym Group Fitness program. The program’s been running for the entire school year and was established in collaboration with Nambucca Heads High School and Kane Gois from Connective Fitness in Macksville.
Every Tuesday during the school term, Year 9 and Year 10 students participate in fitness sessions under Kane’s guidance.
Kane and the program have had a significant impact on the participants, improving their physical health and well-being through exercise but also boosting their mental health, self-belief, confidence, and friendship circle.
Three participants share their responses to the program and the change it’s creating. Kane also shares his observations and motives for being part of Active U.
Group member Noah says, “I like everything about the gym program. I like working out, it has helped with my mental health and makes me feel better.”
For Alex, the program has encouraged him to do more exercise and provides an important network.
“I go for a walk once a week. I feel better after every time I go to the gym, and I also feel support from everyone.”
Like a few participants, Tate initially joined thinking t it was a chance to get out of schoolwork, “but the program has now helped me with my mental health and fitness, and I feel very supported by everyone.”
Several group members attend the gym regularly outside the Active U program, including Jackson, who rocks up by 4 am for his exercise session.
The holistic program aims to address mental, emotional, and social well-being, build resilience, educate and encourage healthy habits, and lead to improved school attendance and behaviours.
Kane, an important mentor and support for many different aspects of the participants’ lives, is also working with the group to create opportunities for work experience and future pathways.
Noah attends the gym on Friday mornings for a workout, then does a day of work experience.
“I was having issues at school and was also not attending that much. Kane spoke to me about this and then offered me to come on a Friday for work experience. “I help clean, and they have a Mums and Bubs class, so I help look after the babies and young kids.
“I’m not sure if I want to do it after school as a job, but for now, I just like doing something different and I am enjoying it. Kane is so good… I feel like I can talk to him about stuff.”
The work experience was instigated by Noah’s mum because she noticed him struggling. According to Kane, the benefits are clear, and Noah now attends school twice a week.
“Having Noah with us working once a week has been awesome, and his mum says, ‘he’s just a different kid’.
“Give him responsibility, and he takes it on. He gets a checklist of tasks and works through them.
Tate does additional personal training with Kane on Wednesdays. Together they are moving towards a career pathway for Tate by making industry connections. They have a meeting with Express Coach Builders and are exploring options for apprenticeships or traineeships.
A major priority for Kane and the team at Connective is children’s and young people’s health. Kane says the only approach is an all-encompassing view of what’s happening for young people. That’s why he’s helping the Active U group in different ways and searching for opportunities to provide life skills.
“I know it seems like I’m going above and beyond, but this is just doing what needs to be done to help these kids.
“It’s about creating healthy minds, healthy bodies, healthy everything. I don’t want them to think of exercise as a chore but a chance to work on themselves.
“The biggest thing I’m starting to notice with all of them is their confidence in general. It’s crazy to see how far they’ve come. I keep seeing them growing, and we have really good, vital conversations.
Tate’s younger sibling B has also started coming to the gym every week, and Kane says they talk about what B is going through and wants help with and they work on building continual confidence.
“They feel like they can come to me, talk to me, and they feel safe.
Kane thinks that the bonds formed between the group and that he’s developed with them are the primary reason the program is successful and why the students attend each week.
“There’s a bit of an outside-the-box connection, and I’m not just a PT to them.
“They can see that I know what it’s like to be them, to be the one everyone else says won’t do much or thinks isn’t good enough, but it’s actually everyone looking at a round peg in a square hole.
“You give them other opportunities and show them where they can fit in, and that’s where I think this program has been so beneficial.”
The students say Active U has made a difference.
For Alex, who was quiet when he started, it gave him more self-belief.
“I wanted to join the gym program because I was going through a real hard time, and I felt better about myself after going there.
“Kane is just so good. He always knows how to talk to you, and you could go to the gym and just chill if you were upset or something was wrong.”
Tate adds, “Kane is very supportive, he is easy to talk to, and I get along with him. He also supports me and pushes me to do better.”
For Kane, there’s no greater reward than witnessing these changes and building their confidence, communication, and capability.
“If they know that they can get through a workout, they get through anything you. If you can keep moving forward, you’re winning. You might move forward one step at a time, or you might move forward sprinting; forward is forward.
“They have so many opportunities for mentors, and for me to be the guy they choose is humbling because I get to help shape these kids and help shape our community.
“I’m excited to see where they get to, and we’re here to support them not just for now but forever.
“There’s so much happening in this big world of ours. These young people also have an opportunity to shape that.”
Also jumping in, up, sideways, and over each week are Warrick, the school’s Student Support Officer, and Elisse, one of Becoming U’s Nambucca Valley Community Connectors, who join the students for the exercises.
Thanks to all the students, Kane, and everyone who works hard to make the Active U Boys Gym Group Fitness program successful.
Check out the Boys Fitness Program gallery below. Credit: Leah Moore, The Moores Photographers
You can also learn more about Kane in this story, The local community shows up for flood victims.
Author: Simone Atallah