THE BLOG

With the 1st Pick of the NFL Draft, We Pick America's Kids

04/29/2015 09:58 am ET | Updated Jun 29, 2015

As NFL Draft activities kick off, let's not forget what's happening -- or not happening -- in school gymnasiums, parks, and backyards across the country.

Currently, less than half of our nation's youth meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a recommendation that advises 60 minutes of daily physical activity. The majority of children and adolescents today spend most of their day sitting in classrooms and a big part of their free-time engaged in sedentary activities. In fact, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control indicated that 48% of students did not attend PE class in an average week when they were in school.

Because both nutrition and physical activity directly impact 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 (P.E.) teachers so urgently need. The Fuel Up to Play 60 NFL FLAG Essentials Kit is a package provided directly to schools that offers equipment, curriculum, recognition, and training resources to get students and teachers excited about physical activity -- in the form of flag football, a timeless game for all ages, gender and ability.

Today, we announced the expansion of this commitment, resulting in a total of 4,000 free NFL FLAG Essentials Kits reaching well over one million students across the country.

Budgetary shortfalls in education these days are news to no one, and P.E. teachers, like all educators, are doing more with less. And based on our work with P.E. teachers, we understand their needs are many. Equipment is often sadly lacking and dated. Schools rarely have funding to purchase new sports equipment. Many P.E. teachers lack a professional curriculum, and consequently spend a significant amount of time improvising their own lesson plans. And still others lack appropriate training and professional development with which to teach key physical skills. Not only do they 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 all those gaps in an efficient multi-tiered nationwide initiative.

With NFL FLAG Essentials, we've created a simple, all-in-one-place mechanism -- complete with online training -- through which equipment can be delivered; fully customizable curricula provided; skills taught and learned; excitement and engagement generated; and healthier, higher-achieving students cultivated.

Sound simple? It's not.

Curriculum development -- which we created with our colleagues at SHAPE America (the Society of Health and Physical Educators) and USA Football -- was an exacting and crucial process. And thanks to their expert input, we moved slowly to ensure success. In NFL FLAG's initial year, we deliberately limited the program to six markets, and only now, based on the results of that first year, are we rolling it out to Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Jacksonville, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

So what were those results?

Among them, that an astonishing 98% of teachers are using the kits in P.E. class, many for more than one semester. Nearly half -- 47% -- are also using them after school. Demand for the kits far exceeded supply, and well over half a million kids have learned the fundamentals of flag football and been inspired to get more active after just the first year. We also learned that kids -- both boys and girls, urban and rural -- love to play. And when they love to play, they move.

Our point is not to pat ourselves on the back, but to convey that we feel we've created an effective, replicable model not only to foster physical activity in schools but to address the very real challenges of cash-strapped school districts for whom, sadly, physical education has become an afterthought -- or worse, eliminated entirely.

Given the chance, American kids do want to eat better and move more -- and as a result do better in school. 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 is but one -- we can empower our children to do exactly that.

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

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Tom Gallagher is the CEO of Dairy Management Inc. and Chairman of GENYOUth. Alexis Glick is the CEO of GENYOUth, whose flagship program, Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program, was founded by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the National Football League (NFL), and is offered in 73,000 schools reaching 38 million kids daily. Roger Goodell is the Commissioner of the National Football League.