Female college athletes work with school-age students to stay active
Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative
Hillrise Elementary School is a short five- to eight-minute drive from the campus of New Mexico State University. Twice a week, female student athletes from the campus make the trek to Hillrise to work with approximately 50 grade-school girls to improve their physical activity.
The program is called “Aggie Play.” It is modeled after a program in San Jose, CA. The Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative began sending female student athletes to engage elementary school girls after school to increase the girls’ participation in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Getting college athletes to help increase the physical activity of elementary school kids is a win-win. Not only can the athletes model positive behavior for the young girls, but they can serve as mentors.
Michael Kelly, Ph.D, program officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s HEAL initiative, recognized the added value of two systems working together, the upside of a land-grant university like New Mexico State partnering with the public school system in Las Cruces.
When the New Mexico State athletes arrive at Hillcrest Elementary, they spend the first 10 minutes warming up and going through a series of stretching routines with the girls. Then they huddle and talk about character concepts – teamwork, putting in the effort, what it means to be healthy – before they break into games and play.
The emphasis on participation and staying active is a perfect fit for the overall goals of HEAL, which works to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary time.
Only one quarter of U.S. kids ages 6-15 get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a day to lead an active lifestyle. Girls trend even lower, making Aggie Play even more critical.