The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH



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Friday, Jul 28, 2017

I have spent one career working with students in schools as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent. It has been wonderful-children of all ages are smart, funny, idealistic, hopeful, trusting, and care about their future. That much hasn't changed over the years. But I have watched, firsthand, the fitness and overall health of our students decline as our student population has become more overweight and less active. I can target any, or all, of the reasons why (too much screen time, too little physical education, too much sugar and fast foods, etc...) but make no mistake, every reason and circumstance for this problem has been designed and implemented by us, the adults. And therefore, it is our responsibility to correct and improve student fitness and health in every aspect of their lives and we need to do it quickly. In one real sense, my role as an educator has been the required training for joining The Cooper Institute's youth mission to tackle this central problem and I view this leadership challenge and opportunity as a moral responsibility. I am Cooper-Ready.

We have three powerful pieces on our side in our mission. The scientific evidence of performance gains when we approach youth development from a "whole child" strategic design is growing and irrefutable. Fit and healthy students stand to live long, high quality, active lives. They stand to perform better academically and have higher attendance for now in schools, and later in the workplace. And ancillary but critical, an improved youth health profile for America is key to future military readiness, to stopping the health care meltdown, and to economic development and workforce readiness.

We also have the power of personal stories, from children and adults, of accomplishment and hope centered on the quality of life improvements that occur the moment we begin working towards being more fit. The resiliency of the human body is remarkable and the teachable moment is that, innately, we are designed to be fit. Our young people want to be healthy, and yes, they are a captive audience during their school years, but they are a willing audience, completely receptive to interventions based upon education and practice. Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s not the kids that are the problem, it's the adults"? Well, when it comes to fitness and healthy lifestyle choices, they are right.

And finally, we are creating strategic alliances and partnerships to tackle the problem of youth obesity and lack of activity with a level of commitment of resources and human capital that is unprecedented. And the great insight of successful partnerships involving disparate organizations and groups with a common interest is to align the partners to fulfill their strategic need while activating the entire scope of their unique talents and resources. I describe a successful partnership as one where groups come together with a shared goal; bringing complementary strengths to the table while retaining the flexibility to stay in their lanes, and do what they do best as we collectively drive in the same direction toward a desired outcome. If that set of roles and responsibilities are formulated successfully at the beginning, intervention programs and strategies centered on improving youth health thrive and become sustainable practices that transcend the initial activation vision. That, in turn, is how we will create a culture shift and raise a healthier generation that is, quite simply, life-ready.

I am so honored to step into a contributing role on a team that has seen all of this with a crystal clear eye for close to fifty years – The Cooper Institute and Dr. Kenneth Cooper. What a team. What an opportunity. I am, without a doubt, Cooper-Ready.

Jeremy Lyon, PhD
President, Cooper Youth Division
The Cooper Institute