Boys ‘Xcel’ in fitness and character

INDIAN TRAIL – Hundreds of boys in Union County and the Charlotte area turned out this past weekend for the culmination of a season of fitness and character

The Xcel 2 Fitness program recently held its The Big Event to end the spring season.

The Xcel 2 Fitness program recently held its The Big Event to end the spring season.

Local nonprofit Xcel 2 Fitness held The Big Event, the conclusion of its spring season, on Saturday, May 10, at Indian Trail Elementary School. More than 500 people representing 11 schools attended the event, which included an obstacle course and team challenges.

“The premise of our program is to face your obstacles, overcome your obstacles, dream big, and we just use fitness as an avenue to do that,” Stephen Vaughn, founder of Xcel 2 Fitness, said.

Vaughn, a former physical education teacher, launched Xcel 2 Fitness at Providence Spring Elementary School in south Charlotte in 2011, and the program has since grown to serve nearly a dozen schools in Union County and the Charlotte area, as well as students in Raleigh, Virginia, Arkansas and Ontario, Canada, through affiliate

The six-week, 12-session program is formatted much like Girls on the Run, Vaughn said, except it’s designed for boys and doesn’t focus on one specific activity. Each participating school is responsible for providing two coaches, who follow Xcel 2 Fitness’s scripted

One of the things Vaughn loves about the program is it’s designed for elementary-age boys of all physical and athletic abilities.

“We teach the fundamentals of fitness,” Vaughn said. “I’ve trained college athletes and done some of the same stuff with these kids (in Xcel 2 Fitness). The great thing is it’s for kids at all ends of the spectrum. We can reach any kid with any background.”

But more important than the fitness aspect, Vaughn said, is the character building the program promotes. Following his father’s death in 2006, Vaughn was able to relate to a void many of his male students, who were lacking the drive and influence to achieve their dreams and be the best they could be, have. Noticing that void in young boys was what inspired Vaughn to develop Xcel 2

“This is designed to provide them with the motivation to reach their dreams,” he said. “They come out (of the program) with more confidence and a smile and eager to chase their dreams.”

Positive influence from Xcel 2 Fitness also is seen in the classroom. Vaughn has heard numerous stories from teachers and principals about significant improvements in boys’ behavior, concentration and grades after the students participate in Xcel 2 Fitness.

“It teaches them that being average just isn’t OK – ‘I don’t need to settle for average, I can do more than I am doing, and I don’t need to settle. I need to do everything to the best of my ability,’” Vaughn said.

He continued, “I’ve had teachers emailing me about kids’ grades completely changing, principals have (told stories of) improvement from attendance to (the boys’) work in the classroom. I’ve also heard parents say that they noticed a significant change (in the boys’) willingness to help around the house and do their part.”

But perhaps the greatest success story ever to come out of Xcel 2 Fitness occurred during The Big Event on Saturday when Jake, a physically handicapped boy, completed the obstacle course. Jake successfully navigated about 200 feet of rope in the course, pulling himself across the ground to the finish line as his teammates cheered him on.

“The whole place was just roaring; it was unbelievable,” Vaughn said. “… The kids just couldn’t stop smiling and talking about it. That was the point where we all realized we knew we had a big mission, but we didn’t know how big the spectrum was … This isn’t just a Saturday for (Jake) – this could be something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”

Vaughn is already gearing up for the fall season of Xcel 2 Fitness, which will begin in mid-October, and he expects five to six additional schools in the area to join the program. Find more information about the program and how to become involved at


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