While many businesses closed their doors with the start of the pandemic, Larissa Maloney’s virtual fitness program, Active Kids 2.0, was just beginning to form. As the majority of offices, and eventually schools, closed, many families and children had to transition to working at home. Keeping children healthy and fit became a nationwide problem as physical education was taken out of the weekly online schooling sessions. According to experts, regular physical activity helps children build strong bones, develop motor skills, stay fit, and improve focus in the classroom. Maloney, a certified fitness trainer and professional volleyball coach, launched her virtual fitness program in 2020 to provide children with a way to stay healthy while studying at home.
Creating Active Kids 2.0
Before starting her own business, Maloney worked as a personal fitness instructor and head volleyball coach for a high school in Florida. In early 2020, Maloney was in a meeting with her school principal where they discussed with the staff the eventual transition into online classes, although she was told that it would probably not happen anytime soon. That very night, however, Maloney received an email telling her that the school would be closed and that classes would be going fully virtual. “I had no idea how to teach personal fitness virtually,” admitted Maloney. She had to devise a way to provide impactful sessions while also making sure it was interactive and engaging enough for her students. So she decided to stream weekly 30-minute fitness workout sessions live on YouTube, using her home gym as a backdrop. Maloney hoped that in this way, students would be able to see her on-screen, and she could engage with them just like in a classroom. “The first day that I went live, I had over 7,000 families join in,” said Maloney. “From then on, it was just more and more and more throughout the whole of the rest of the year. And it really built a community.”
Even Maloney’s own children were keen to join in whenever their mother hosted classes. She explained that when she started, she had her kids home with her, and it was a fun way for them to keep active, too. “Everyone back then had a lot of anxiety,” she explained. “No one knew what was going to happen next with the pandemic.” In providing these virtual fitness classes, Maloney wished to instill hope in children and provide them with a sense of normality. Active Kids 2.0 also provided a means for the whole family to come together, regardless of age, and participate in staying healthy. “Some of the messages that I got said it’s not just me doing it—it’s now my brother, my sister, my mom, my dad, even grandma’s doing it with me,” said Maloney. “So we really created a family life environment.”
A Demand for More
When summer arrived, she had to decide whether to stop or keep going. Feedback from members started pouring in—many prompted her to continue—describing her classes as being “the glue to their family” during those uncertain times. In the beginning, Maloney only offered cardio and strength-building classes. Today, Active Kids 2.0 includes a dedicated team of top instructors, each offering a diverse range of classes including karate, boxing, cheerleading, dance, yoga, volleyball, basketball, and even soccer—giving children a variety of options to pick from. “Each class has something different, and brings something unique to the table,” said Maloney. Some children join the Active Kids 2.0 with a predetermined class in mind, but the majority of them prefer to alternate among different ones to find one they love.
According to Maloney, promoting an active lifestyle to youth is key in their development into adults. The skills that are taught in her classes apply universally to everyday scenarios and help nurture confidence, and they improve mental well-being, which in turn builds the foundations for successful adult life. Maloney said the organization receives much positive feedback from families and schools who take part in the Active Kids program, particularly a significant improvement in grades and concentration. The Active Kids program takes pride in its flexibility, allowing children to partake in multiple different classes all from the comfort of their own homes. This is largely due to the virtual nature of the classes, which provides busy families a means to explore different sports and activities without needing to move from place to place. Maloney admitted she experienced this herself with her children. “Before my program, I wanted my children to try everything, but it was just not physically possible. But within my program, they literally can try everything,” she said. Aside from being fully virtual, Maloney explains that children require little to no equipment to take part in classes. This was an important element for her when comprising a business plan and one that sets her apart from many such programs. For instance, when engaging in a volleyball class, kids would only need access to a simple ball as the goal is to develop the basic skills required for the sport.
Building Confidence Through Sport
As a professional volleyball player, Maloney’s own passion for sports also started at a young age. A keen advocate for health and well-being, Maloney was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball and volleyball and running track. She won a volleyball scholarship to study at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, and upon graduating in 2012, she went on to play professional beach volleyball. “So many qualities I have today are because of sports,” admits Maloney. “Leadership and communication—I only had that in me because of sport.” Many times in the past, she has been described as resilient. The qualities that she developed because of her dedication to sports allowed her to grow as an individual. “There’s a lot of things in life that I’ve had to push through, and I believe if it wasn’t for sports, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.
Active Kids 2.0 is always on the lookout to create more fun content for children to engage in. The program currently provides recipe classes as a way for children to learn fun, healthy meals to cook at home. Maloney explained that she will soon also be offering cooking classes as part of the curriculum, so children can follow along with step-by-step video instructions. “I’m always creating something new, so we always have something brewing,” said Maloney.