Michelle Obama has been hitting the campaign trail, making stump speeches for keeping kids fit. Can't say I blame her. Childhood obesity has reached critical mass; according to the CDC, it has tripled in the past three years, not that anyone really needs statistics when a pair of eyes will suffice.
And of course, everyone is weighing in on why: Electronic games, the advent of 24-hour cartoons (and 24-hour TV in general), the Internet, more junk food readily available - just close your eyes and point; you're likely to find a culprit.
To fight that culprit, it takes a hero, someone kids can look to as an example of what can happen if they don't remain sedentary. With the 2012 Summer Olympic Games looming, the National Recreation and Parks Association is working to get kids excited enough to start emulating the athletes they'll see. From June 18-26, communities are being urged to celebrate Olympic Day through educational programming and other activities. The goal, according to NRPA, is to promote Olympic values and participation in sports.
It's a great opportunity. NRPA will provide resources including assistance in contacting a local Olympian, Paralympian or hopeful to speak at the event. And those who aren't rec and park departments should still sit up and take notice here, because the basic premise is transferable: Get kids interested in sports at your facility by giving them a concrete example of the great achievements that are possible when fun, hard work and dedication all come together in sports.
In some places, this technique is already at work. Little Leagues in areas served by MLB clubs will have pro players in to conduct pitching, hitting and running drills. It's a terrific morale booster and a great way to pump up enrollment. Why hasn't every kids' sport done this?
Think beyond the typical tryouts or sign-ups. Have a field day centered around the sport, whether it's swimming, volleyball, tennis, gymnastics - whatever. Get an athlete to conduct a clinic and be the hero the kids need.
NRPA is already promoting its June program, and it's still winter. You should be making your plans now, too. Successful events take time to plan, and heroes have busy schedules.