There was running. There was jumping. There were touchdown catches and summersaults. And to top it all off, there were even some healthy snacks for refueling. On Tuesday afternoon, over 200 kids from seven United Way-funded Boys and Girls Clubs journeyed to the ContinuityX Training Center to take part in the 2012 Hometown Huddle with the St. Louis Rams.
Hometown Huddle is a program that was introduced by the NFL and United Way in 1999. It is a league-wide day of service in which teams work with their local United Way on various projects or programs designed to bring awareness and impact to the issue of youth health and fitness.
“We know from all the research and what we’ve seen now for a few decades that when children learn to lead healthy lifestyles, they have a better chance to be successful as adults through school, through college and also just from a health perspective, they live longer, healthier lifestyles,” United Way senior vice president of resource development R.J. Crunk said.
For this year’s event, the Rams incorporated elements of the NFL’s PLAY 60 campaign. The campaign aims to combat childhood obesity by encouraging kids to be active for at least 60 minutes each day.
Throughout the afternoon, kids in attendance ventured around a series of stations that promoted physical activity, healthy and nutritional eating and information about the day-to-day lives of their favorite Rams players. As an added bonus, the kids received first-hand knowledge from select Rams players, coaches and staff. Players assisting with the program included safety
“It’s a great experience for the kids because they get to see the players, get to see what we do as an athletic training staff, strength and conditioning staff and even the nutritionist side of things,” head trainer Reggie Scott said.
There were three main components to the afternoon, but all had some sort of connection to health and fitness. To start off the event, head trainer Reggie Scott led the group in a jumping jacks drill to get everybody warmed up. From there, the kids broke out into three groups to begin their various activities.
The first segment was focused on the NFL’s PLAY 60 platform, encouraging kids to be active at least 60 minutes everyday offering up different activities at five different stops. The first station, kids played a special game of tug-of-war to work on their balance under the supervision of Scott; from there they moved to a relay race; third, they took part in a Jeopardy-style competition related to health and nutrition; following that station, kids had to jump hurdles, tackle a practice dummy, then turn around and catch a touchdown; and the fifth and final station was musical chairs.
Activity number two was an informational session in which participants toured the facilities at the ContinuityX Training center. Their initial stop was the Rams’ locker room where the kids got a peek of what players keep in their sacred space, followed by the opportunity to ask questions.
From there, the participants headed to the auditorium where former Rams defensive tackle and current director of player engagement, La’Roi Glover gave them a rundown of a typical day and week for NFL players. Afterward, the kids took part in a question and answer session with Glover.
The last stop on the facility tour was the weight room. Here, head strength coach Rock Gullickson explained to the kids the purpose of lifting weights and how to do so effectively and safely while allowing them to use the same equipment as their own favorite Rams players.
Due to the active nature of the afternoon, a nutritious snack seemed like the perfect way to cap the day. Under the guidance of team nutritionist, Shawn Zell, kids made their own low-fat ranch dressing into which they then dipped various vegetables.
“We’re teaching them about some healthy snacks they can eat after school – vegetables and a healthy ranch dressing they can dip it in,” guard Harvey Dahl said. “We want them to know that there’s an alternative way to eat that’s a lot healthier.”
When it came time to leave, the kids did not go home empty-handed. In an effort to encourage them to continue leading healthy lives, each kid received a bag filled with a jump rope and pedometer among other items.
“(Being healthy) is important for all of us, but especially at their age you can build a healthy lifestyle,” Turner said. “You can prevent things from happening like diabetes or obesity and things of that nature that catch up with people as they get older.”