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University fitness specialists to put ‘Kokoda Kids’ to the test


Zuleika Henderson
29 April 2011
The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program will kick off once again this Sunday, May 1 with the annual fitness testing at North Burleigh Beach by Southern Cross University’s School of Health and Human Sciences and the North Coast Academy of Sport.

The intensive fitness tests will put the 60 new ‘Kokoda Kids’ from Tweed, Gold Coast and Brisbane through their paces to establish their baseline fitness levels before training starts for the 96km Kokoda Challenge in July.

The University is the Education Partner for the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program, which consists of intensive physical training, teamwork exercises and community service activities designed to help young people aged 16-18 years develop the self confidence, teamwork and leadership skills they need to realise their full potential.

Professor Shi Zhou from Southern Cross University’s School of Health and Human Sciences said the fitness tests were traditionally held by Southern Cross University at the first training session each year.

“This will be the first time participants in this year’s Kokoda Challenge Youth Program meet, so it’s an ideal opportunity to assess their levels of fitness to see where they are at, and how much they need to improve, between now and the Challenge,” said Professor Zhou.

“We will be assessing muscular strength and endurance through timed push ups and sit-ups and measuring vertical jumps, while aerobic fitness will be tested through the ‘beep test’ – which is a multi-stage shuttle run.

“We’ll also conduct some games for general fitness and team building, so there will be shuttle relays and a series of tug-of-wars between the teams which is always a lively and fun way to end the day.”

Participants in the 14-month Kokoda Challenge Youth Program train for and undertake the Kokoda Challenge, a 96km bushwalking team event held on the third weekend of July every year. Following the Kokoda Challenge, the highlight of the program is a visit to Papua New Guinea to work with local villagers and walk the Kokoda Track.

Kokoda Challenge Association chairman Doug Henderson said he was delighted to have the ongoing support of Southern Cross University.

“The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program is aimed at helping young people face the challenges in their lives, whether it be at home, school or socially,” said Mr Henderson.

“The fitness testing marks the beginning of 20 weeks of training and team building activities that develop physical fitness and prepare the participants for the challenge of a lifetime – walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.

“This is followed by a further six months of community service activities where they will regularly volunteer their time to local not-for-profit organisations.

“We don’t believe that there is a quick fix for the problems some of these young people face, but we do know that through a combination of great mentors, physical activity, new friends, self belief and an ongoing support network, young people can gain the confidence and skills to overcome any obstacles life throws at them.

“These kids have committed to a great personal challenge and it’s great to have the support and expertise of the staff at the University as they begin on their journeys.”

Media are invited to attend at 10.15am at the northern end of North Burleigh Beach this Sunday, May 1 as the ‘Kokoda Kids’ take part in fitness tests and a tug-of-war run by staff and students from Southern Cross University’s School of Health and Human Sciences and the North Coast Academy of Sport.

Photo: Kokoda Challenge Youth Program participants are put through their paces at the fitness testing last year (high resolution image available on request).