Solon Springs native offers kids fitnessFor years, Sandy “Spin” Slade was known for her nickname. The Solon Springs native built a career as one of the top basketball handlers in the world, performing her “spin” for fans worldwide.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
For years, Sandy “Spin” Slade was known for her nickname. The Solon Springs native built a career as one of the top basketball handlers in the world, performing her “spin” for fans worldwide. Now, she may want to change her name to Sandy “Fitness” Slade. As president and founder of Skillastics, she’s tackling childhood obesity and getting kids moving through a series of fitness games.
Slade’s products are sold worldwide and different titles have been endorsed by the national “Let’s Move In School” initiative, the U.S. Tennis Association and the YMCA. Last week, Skillastics was one of 12 small businesses to receive a national $250,000 grant through the “Mission: Small Business” program sponsored by Chase and Living Social. Applicants were evaluated based upon their ability to show a feasible growth plan, creativity, overall passion for their business and the potential to make a positive impact within the local community.
“It’s kind of surreal, looking at all the people who applied for this, that we were one of the 12,” Slade said. The funding will allow the business, which currently has three full-time employees and ships orders from a warehouse in Hurley, to expand. Skillastics nets more than $1 million in sales every year, with distribution in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia. But wealth isn’t Slade’s goal.
“It’s not about making money, it’s about making a difference,” she said, whether as an entertainer or a small businesswoman. The focus of Skillastics, she said, is to get kids who are not normally active off the couch and on the move. That’s important today, Slade said, when one-third of children are considered overweight or obese.
What are Skillastics? Think of them as board games, super-sized. Teams of youth roll dice, move their marker and perform the fitness activity they land on. The games can get up to 100 kids of varying ages and fitness levels active in a limited space.
“Everybody’s moving, everybody’s having fun, whatever their level of abilities,” Slade said.
The basketball, volleyball, tennis and soccer Skillastics highlight the fundamentals of each sport. Character is Cool Skillastics emphasizes character traits such as sportsmanship, responsibility, teamwork and honesty side-by-side with fitness. There’s even a Halfpint Skillastics for preschoolers.
Slade grew up on a farm in Solon Springs. She attended St. Croix High School, participating in all the sports she could, as well as the band, before graduating in 1981.
“I loved growing up there,” she said, and going to a small school allowed her to try everything and be well-rounded.
“That laid the foundation of what I want to do with my life,” Slade said. “I’m thankful for that kind of background.” She said her parents always instilled in her that there was a big world out there.
“Always keep your mind open, there’s more out there,” Slade said. “Follow your path.”
For years, that path was basketball. She played ball at UMD, then Fresno State and on to performing. In the 1990s, Slade realized that she couldn’t keep up the pace much longer.
The first Skillastics activity kit was released in 2002. In the decade since, Slade has tapered off her performing and ramped up her business. Currently, Skillastics games are being implemented in more than 20,000 schools, after-school programs and community-based organizations throughout the country. With the help of the grant, Slade hopes to extend that reach.
“Businesses in local communities are always interested in helping schools in their area,” she said. “I am offering businesses the opportunity to include their business name on Skillastics mats, customizing the program that can be distributed to school district. It will also allow us to continue to reach out to corporations on a national level to help implement the Skillastics program in every school in this country.” Grant money will also go into creating additional Skillastics activity kits that schools have been asking for.
“I am grateful to Chase and LivingSocial in recognizing the value Skillastics offers in fighting a national crisis like childhood obesity,” Slade said.
For more information about Skillastics, look up the website at www.skillastics.com. Businesses interested in being a sponsor can click on the Become a Sponsor link.