Guest Blog Post by Lauren Izzo, Director, Programs and Partnerships, GENYOUth, Lauren.izzo@genyouthnow.org

I grew up in a suburb of New York City in which everyone, and I mean everyone, played at least one sport year-round. It was said every baby born at North Shore University Hospital was sent home with a lacrosse stick in their diaper bag. And if lacrosse wasn’t your thing, you had your pick of other travel and club teams starting in preschool: tee-ball, little league, softball, soccer, basketball, and swimming. When we got older we could play field hockey or football, wrestle, run track or cross country. Tennis, golf. Even bowling or crew. Cheerleading. Color guard. You name it, my school district had an option. Plus, we had 30-42 minutes of P.E. class every other day—all the way through high school—regardless of whether we played a sport.

Because of my personal experience growing up, I was shocked when I learned that less than half of youth meet the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans of at least 60 minutes of daily vigorous-to-moderate-intensity physical activity. And only 4%, 8%, and 3% of schools meet the recommendations for physical education in elementary, middle, and high school respectively. Physical Education is in crisis, clearly. Add the fact that the median PE budget per school in the U.S. is less than $800, and the average public school enrollment is about 550 students. This translates to less than $1.50 per student per year!

For youth to flourish, they need access to physical activity. Physically active kids are more likely to be healthy, academically motivated, alert, and successful. Physical competence builds self-esteem at every age.

Because physical activity directly impacts academic performance in school, American students are paying a heavy price for the lack of physical activity opportunities before, during, and after school.

The NFL and GENYOUth’s flagship program, Fuel Up to Play 60, are doing something about it.

In 2014, we developed a turnkey solution to the crisis in physical inactivity that America’s Physical Education teachers so urgently need. The Fuel Up to Play 60 NFL FLAG-In-Schools Kit is provided directly to schools and community-based organizations, offering equipment, curriculum, and resources to get students excited about physical activity in and out of the classroom —in the form of flag football, a game for all ages, genders, and abilities.

Budgetary shortfalls in education these days are news to no one, and P.E. teachers, like all educators, are doing more with less. Equipment is often sadly lacking or dated. Schools rarely have funding to purchase new sports equipment. Many lack a professional curriculum. Not only do P.E. teachers need more support, but they deserve it.

What we’re doing with NFL FLAG, and through the larger Fuel Up to Play 60 program as a whole, is bridging those gaps in an efficient, multi-tiered nationwide initiative. We’ve created a simple, all-in-one-place mechanism through which equipment can be delivered; fully customizable curricula provided; skills taught and learned; excitement and engagement generated; and healthier, higher-achieving students cultivated.

In the program’s first five years, 20,000 school communities have utilized FLAG-In-Schools Kits, reaching upwards of 9 million students nationwide. Of those reached, 71% are recognized as high-needs schools.

More than 3,500 P.E. teachers have participated in a FLAG training, and we’ve collaborated with all 32 NFL Clubs and authors of the FLAG-In-Schools curriculum, SHAPE America!

We continue to see an overwhelming demand. Data indicate that the kits have inspired more physical activity for both boys and girls. Among the statistics is that 98% of teachers are using the kits in P.E. class. Nearly half are also using the kits after school. Demand for the kits has exceeded supply, and millions of kids have learned the fundamentals of flag football and been inspired to get more active. Kids — both boys and girls, urban and rural — love to play. And when they love to play, they move!

Given the chance, American kids want to eat better and move more. As a result, they will do better in school and in life. Through public-private partnerships like the one that drives the NFL’s partnership with America’s dairy farmers to support Fuel Up to Play 60 and our various initiatives — of which NFL FLAG-In-Schools is but one — we can empower our children to do exactly that.

We owe it to them. And to our nation’s future!

#FuelGreatness #LetsPlayFootball

 

About GENYOUth

GENYOUth empowers students to create a healthier future for themselves and their peers by convening a network of private and public partners to raise funds for youth wellness initiatives that bolster healthy, high-achieving students, schools and communities nationwide. We believe that all students are change-agents, who deserve the opportunity to identify and lead innovative solutions that positively impact nutrition, physical activity, and student success. For more information about GENYOUth, visit: www.genyouthnow.org.

About Fuel Up to Play 60

Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Football League (NFL) and National Dairy Council (NDC), which was founded by America’s dairy farmers, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Fuel Up to Play 60 is designed to engage and empower youth to take action for their own health by implementing long-term, positive changes for themselves and their schools. The program additionally encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. As a result of the program, last year 14 million students made better food choices and are getting more physically active during the school day. Fuel Up to Play 60 is further supported by several health and nutrition organizations: Action for Healthy Kids, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Association/Foundation, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association and School Nutrition Association. Visit FuelUpToPlay60.com to learn more.