RAVENSWOOD - There was something in the air Tuesday evening after school in "The Pit" at Ravenswood High. On one end of the gymnasium standout Red Devil hoopster Jake Martin was drilling jump shot after jump shot in precise, methodical fashion.
Running steps and pumping iron in the nearby weight room was the varsity football team, in impressive numbers, working in their off season strength and conditioning program. Observing was Red Devil head hoops and pigskin coach Mick Price with assistant football coach Steve Sturm.
The other end of Mick Price Court was occupied by a group of young athletes ranging in age from five through grade six.
The youngsters are participating in agility and speed drills using a variety of pads, cones and ropes specifically designed to focus on their specific age groups.
Ravenswood assistant football coach Jason Jackson has ran this program for three years. It is an after school program, provided to any Ravenswood youth in the designated age group, absolutely free of charge, available to both girls and boys.
The program runs once per week from January until the end of the school year. Surrounding towns and cities offer similar programs but not free of charge to the community. The workout focuses on fundamentals including form running, footwork, lateral quickness and speed. Weight lifting is not part of the program.
"We want to accomplish two things with this program. First of all, we want to provide our youth with something that they can do that is healthy and safe after school. This also gives us a chance to connect with our young athletes before they get to high school and develop relationships with them early on," said Jackson.
"It is an absolute win for everyone involved."
Sturm assists with the program as time permits but Jackson is the face you see there every Tuesday after school.
Parents have been quick to express the benefits of something healthy and fun for their child to participate in.
It only takes a few minutes before you see how much fun and excitement the program has generated. It has seen as many as 44 youths participating but there were about 30 last Tuesday.
"Most of these young people attend very faithfully," added Jackson.
Jacob Creel is an athletic fifth grader who has been in the program for all three years.
"Jacob is enthusiastic and hard working. He has come so far in a short time," said Jackson.
Sam Sturm and Jacob Anthony, also fifth graders, blaze through each station in the obstacle course style layout with a purpose.
Jackson's 12 year-old son Luke has excelled in the program since its inception.
Jackson, a 1990 graduate of Ravenswood High former Red Devil player is passionate about his school and the youth in the community.
"Honestly, I am having a blast with them. I look forward to Tuesdays and developing new things for us to do together as a group,"
There is something in the air on Tuesdays at Ravenswood High and apparently it is "fun".