Let’s Get Our Kids Moving! Their Lives Depend On It

In this post, I tackle the next of our 2012 Resolutions relating to the recent collaborative national initiative of leading out-of-school-time organizations to combat childhood obesity by adopting unifying principles of nutrition and physical activity. 

 Move more: Boost movement and physical activity in all programs. 

Seems like such a simple thing. It’s not. The statistics are alarming. In 2005, more than 9 million children were classified as overweight, with African-American and Latino children grossly over-represented in these numbers. Daily physical education has declined significantly in the past 20 years, with only one state in the U.S. (Illinois) requiring some physical education component for graduation in all grades K-12. In low income and minority high school populations, more than 20% of the children do not participate in any vigorous exercise outside of school and 11% do not participate in any vigorous activity at all. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend for children and adolescents, at least 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Many of our children are not getting this much activity in a week. 

 Schools have responded to on-going budget cuts, increased emphasis on test scores, higher teacher-student ratios, and fewer teachers trained in physical education by cutting out physical education programs across the boards. The “No Child Left Behind” Policy (2001), does not address health education at all and has effectively drawn funding away from physical education, especially in low-income and minority school districts. 

Out-of-school-time organizations have struggled to fill the gap. For some of them, sports, fitness or physical activities seem outside the scope of their primary mission. Even for many youth sports organizations, there has been more emphasis on teaching sport specific skills than encouraging “vigorous activity” for everyone on the team, especially during practice. To make things more challenging, up to 75% of the children who participate in any youth sports program, drop out by age 13, just when puberty and decreased physical activity set in.

 What can parents, do?

  • Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself.
  • Make physical activity a part of your family’s daily routine.
  • Be positive about physical activities in which your child participates and encourage them to be interested in a wide variety of sports and fitness options.
  • Make it fun by doing things your child enjoys – structured or unstructured – walking, running, swimming, biking, dancing, skating, climbing, etc.
  • Encourage them to try new things. Not everyone is good at everything they try, nor does everyone mature at the same rate. 

What can youth sports coaches and administrators do?

  • Formally agree to involve all the children in your program in vigorous activity each time you meet.
  • Develop fun practices that engage everyone.
  • Suggest activities to the children and their parents to do in their “off time”.
  • Involve parents in your goals.
  • Ask the children for their suggestions.

I believe that it is possible for any youth sports program to teach fundamental sport specific skills, include everyone in vigorous activity, make it fun, and make a difference.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wanda L. Rutledge, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor, Business Administration at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City, New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience as a senior national non-profit sports management executive. An entrepreneur, sports management and sports marketing consultant, she is the former Deputy Executive Director for USA Baseball and the current Special Events Director of the National Amateur Baseball Federation. She has been president of the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) since 1990. Her doctoral dissertation was a baseline study about leadership in amateur sports entitled, “Who is Leading Amateur Sports in America Today and How Well Do They Practice Exemplary Leadership.” Contact Wanda at wanda.rutledge53@gmail.com.