The Cooper Institute

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


NFL Play 60 FitnessGram Project Champions Summit

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Friday, Jul 28, 2017

Play, it’s an essential component to childhood. Active play does many things for kids – it gets them up and physically active, helps foster coordination, teambuilding, collaboration and sometimes, conflict resolution; skills that are invaluable to being life ready. Unfortunately, active play has largely been engineered out of the student’s day and consequently, children are bearing the burden of a sedentary life through increased weight and early onset of chronic health issues such as type-2 diabetes. Children need opportunities to build healthy, sustainable physical activity and nutrition habits they can carry into adulthood and beyond. The NFL Play 60 initiative is a key program that is designed to assist in addressing these issues by providing opportunities for active play at all ages in schools.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and since 2009, the NFL Foundation has worked with The Cooper Institute to implement FitnessGram® to measure student fitness levels in more than 1,100 schools in the 32 NFL markets, as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of NFL Play 60 programming. The great news is research through the NFL Play 60 FitnessGram® Project shows that these programs work in improving youth aerobic capacity and reducing excess weight, which is why it’s more important than ever to incorporate maintainable physical activity programming, like NFL Play 60, into more schools.

This is where the NFL Play 60 FitnessGram® Project Champions come into play. Pun intended! The Champions are a core component to the program and are active in each of the 32 NFL markets. Champions serve as a liaison between the 35 active project schools in each market, the teachers, the market club and project partners. Champions help ensure schools have the support and resources they need to effectively implement the program. When it comes to going above and beyond, the project champions set the bar high.

Each year, The Cooper Institute hosts Champions from across the country for an interactive Champion Summit that includes peer-to-peer sharing of ideas, updates from partners including Fuel Up to Play 60 and the American Heart Association, and special guests including current and former NFL players, league representatives and even Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the “Father of Aerobics.”

This year’s Champion Summit did not disappoint and included a fun, unique taste of Texas for all guests. Champions had the opportunity to review and provide invaluable insights into a newly developed program playbook, review market results, learn about newly implemented best practices, and brainstorm with peers from coast to coast on strategies to increase engagement, implementation and improve health outcomes in students. To cap off a very exciting Summit, the Champions headed to The Star in Frisco, the Dallas Cowboys’ new world headquarters, for an exciting dinner overlooking the practice field. Dinner included a panel of very special guests including former players Tommie Harris (Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers), Jacob Lacey (Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings), Shaun Smith (Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans)  and current NFL player Valerian Ume-Ezeoke (Pittsburgh Steelers). The panel shared their insights on how physical activity impacted their lives, their experiences with physical education while in school, which philanthropic causes resonated most both during and after their playing career, and provided tips on how Champions can better engage with players in their market.

This year’s Summit brought in an influx of new ideas, strategies for success and many new friends who share the same mission of building a healthier generation. After a successful two days in Dallas this summer, The Cooper Institute looks forward to hosting the Champions at the June 2018 Champion Summit. Together, we will continue to work toward ensuring that all children have the opportunity to live Well. Into the Future.

Check out the fun!