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The Rx – Exercise!
The call to action has been heard and a team of community partners are ready to spring into action. Vámonos Chesterfield!
The challenges facing young people living along the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor can seem daunting. They face a host of health risk such as obesity and diabetes. Living in poverty means that they often encounter acute and chronic stress, which can have negative effects on their brain’s growth and their ability to perform necessary cognitive functions such as focused attention, working memory, planning and decision making. Poverty can use up so much of their mental bandwidth, that they have no willpower leftover to work hard and excel in school.
The Big Question
If there was just one thing that we could do to make the biggest positive impact on young people living in poverty—what would that be?
Thankfully researchers now have finally found one, simple thing that children can do that will have a wide spread and lasting effect—exercise!
Numerous studies point to the benefits of a regular routine of at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Exercise has been found to:
- Improve the structure and function of the brain
- Improve physical health, fight obesity and help prevent diabetes
- Boost the immune system and fight common maladies such as colds and the flu
- Reduce symptoms of depression through the bodies “natural antidepressant”
- Help improve ADHD symptoms by relieving tension and improving mood and focus
- Improve self-esteem
Unfortunately, children living in low income communities have less access to safe and welcoming places to play. They have fewer, affordable after-school programs to choose from and are often priced out of local sports leagues or are unable to get to practices and games that are conducted outside of their local community. Schools, which are focused more than ever on standardized test, have had to cut time from recess and physical education to dedicate more time towards preparing for test.
The Good News
Fortunately there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. If community partners will come together to create more opportunities for children to get outside and play, to add more affordable after-school programs and to improve access to local sports leagues, this will greatly impact their overall health and help them academically as well.
Poverty Impacts Cognitive Ability
In a recent article from The Atlantic Cities, “How Poverty Taxes the Brain”, (Badger 2013), scientists compare mental capacity with bandwidth. We only have so much of it and when we use our mental capacity for one thing, then it’s not available for something else.
Researchers ran experiments where people were put in situations where they were required to use all of their focus on financial problems and they discovered that people in this financial state performed poorly on cognitive test. In every day terms this means that poor people use their cognitive ability (bandwidth) dealing with everyday financial issues such as how to get their car fixed, where the money is going to come from for their rent and how they will be able to pay for prescriptions. This leaves little or no mental capacity for self-control, or to have patience or to remember important things (working memory).
It also shows that poor people are not just weak or undisciplined, but that they are forced to use all of their mental ability dealing with the issues surrounding poverty. This may help explain why many school aged children that are living in poverty lack executive function or the basic positive character strengths that are the foundation of learning. We’re talking about things like being able to sit still and listen, to remember facts and information, to persevere after a set back or to show self-control. If parents are not able to teach their children these important cognitive, emotional and social skills then who will? This is one reason why we feel that sports is such a great “tool” for teaching these important skills.
Kids can be involved in an after-school program and get the physical activity they need while learning important life skills.
First Touch Sports on Channel 6
Click on this link to view a great story by CBS Channel 6 anchor and reporter Rob Cardwell on First Touch Sports and some of the amazing young people we work with in the area.
Kids at Greenleigh learning soccer and life skills
First Touch Sports is a proud member of Greenleigh Partners, a community-based group that is dedicated to helping the young people and families that reside in the Greenleigh Mobile Home Park in Chesterfield County. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s participants practice basic soccer skills, learn life skills and play small sided games. On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s the students go to the educational cottage in Greenleigh and receive academic help from a team of volunteer tutors.
On Wednesday, Oct. 24th the middle school students will form a team and play a team sponsored by the Chester YMCA at the United Training Center behind the Lowes off of Route 1.
Tomorrow is a very big day for Fist Touch Sports. At 9 am one of our two co-ed recreation teams will begin play in the Cross Association League and the second team will play at 12:20. These team are comprised mostly of children who were born or lived much of their lives in refugee camps in Africa or the Middle East. They are so excited to belong to a team and are looking forward to playing a real game. Thanks to one of our sponsors, we’ve got new Adidas uniforms, shin guards, socks and…thanks to all who donated cleats to FTS, every player will have their own cleats, or boots as they like to call them.
We will also be setting up a mini Soccer Fiesta for the children of the Greenleigh Mobile Home Park and will have fun soccer activities and games for the children that live there from 10 am – 2 pm. We are just one small part of the Greenleigh Community Partners group that will begin a tutoring program two days per week for elementary and middle school students who live in the community. First Touch Sports will run a soccer program on Mondays and Wednesday and will teach life skills along with soccer skills.
We’ll take plenty of pictures!
Life Skills Soccer Program
We are excited that the first edition of our Life Skills Soccer Program curriculum is finished. We now have a Leader’s Manual to use for training the coach / leader of our after school programs and the Player’s Guide for the participants to use during the 6 week program. The manual and guide are created with the end goal of providing the plan for teaching 6 life skills: respect, responsibility, effort, determination, cooperation and self-control. Not only will students learn what these life skills are and why they are important, but they will also learn that these are actually mental skills. They will learn and practice each life skill in the same way that they learn new soccer skills. This is important because life skills are the key to how we succeed in life. Life skills are also transferable, so any mental or life skill learned in soccer will help students in their other environments like school, home and community. What an amazing tool we have to teach children and youth how to succeed in life!
First Touch Sports working with refugee children this summer
First Touch Sports is offering soccer and life skills to recent immigrants from Central America and refugee children from Africa and the Middle East. FTS has partnered with Rose Ballard, soccer coach at Elkhardt Middle School in Richmond, to offer soccer training, games and life skills lessons to approximately 40 young people that have recently relocated to Richmond from countries all around the world including: Sudan, Senegal, Rwanda, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.
See pictures of our field trip to see the Richmond Kickers USL Pro team and the cook out prior to the match.
First Touch Sports Web Site Goes Live
To all of my facebook friends…I’d like to invite you to check out our new First Touch Sports web site. This summer we’ll be offering 3 soccer camps for children age 4-14 and an 8 week “academy style” program. These camps and the academy are designed and priced for the family that needs a low cost alternative yet offers high quality programs.
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