School was out and the kids were ready to play. On Tuesday, over 60 students taking part in the After School for All Partnership (ASAP) program made their way to the ContinuityX Training Center to take part in a PLAY 60 event, led by the St. Louis Rams and team sponsor Anthem BlueCross BlueShield. The afternoon featured fun fitness stations for the students, but also served the purpose of encouraging healthy lifestyles for the kids.
“We wanted to give the ASAP after-school kids the opportunity to experience fitness in a fun way with people they look up to, see on TV and watch every Sunday,” Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHS) communications specialist Justin Gibson said. “We thought reaching out to the St. Louis Rams would give us a good opportunity to make this happen for the kids.”
The message was well received. After arriving at the training complex, the kids were divided into six groups and led through a series of stretches by Rams kicker
Six stations were set up for the students, each emphasizing a different football skill set. At the first station, the kids used jump ropes and saw how long they could keep up the jumping. From there, they ventured over to the “Sack the QB” station. For this exercise, the boys and girls ran over a set of hurdles to “tackle” the dummy quarterback and strip the ball from its arms. The third station involved finding a football under a set of mats and then running it to the endzone, simulating a fumble recovery. The kids got a chance to show off their dance moves at the fourth station when they took a handoff and raced to the endzone for a touchdown, where a celebratory dance was required. The fifth station tested the kids’ agility and quickness as they tip-toed through an agility ladder. At the sixth and final station, the students took part in a game of “Simon Says.” Each station was meant to promote the idea of getting exercise and leading healthy and active lives, the key component of the PLAY 60 initiative.
“A lot of the kids took the PLAY 60 message home with them because it was enforced with fun activities by players and members of the Rams organization,” Gibson said. “They can read about it and it can be taught to them, but when they hear the message from role models they look up to and see all the time, it has a little more ‘oomph’ behind it.”
The learning and activities that took place at the ContinuityX Training Center fit in well with the theme of ASAP, a community effort led by ARCHS, St. Louis Public Schools and United4Children designed to increase access to quality after-school programs in the St. Louis area. The program, with its network of 45 after-school locations, provides a safe and positive environment for the students it serves.
“Instead of going and sitting at home or taking part in mindless activities, (the kids) are still in a learning environment until their parents can pick them up,” Gibson said. “They have to do a certain amount of homework each day before they’re allowed to participate in any activities.”
ASAP’s impact on students extends far beyond simple after-school care. Last year, 3,500 surveys were distributed to students, parents and educators to gauge the effect the program was having on the kids. According to Gibson, over 85 percent of students reported improvement in academics, health, social life skills and character development. Parents and teachers also noticed a difference, claiming they saw improvement in school-day learning and behavior. And as a result of Tuesday, Gibson said he would not be surprised to see an increased commitment to fitness and being healthy.
“The Rams players, and especially the staff members that worked with the kids throughout the afternoon, provided a great role model for these kids and provided a great platform for the PLAY 60 message about fitness and healthy lifestyles.”
To learn more about Area Resources for Community and Human Services and its programs such as After School for All Partnership, visit their website, www.stlarchs.org, or their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/stlarchs.