Cross-posted from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition blog.
I can’t imagine growing up without sports and play. Moving my body – whether it was riding my bike with my brother Wes, shooting hoops, or playing tag at recess – seeded a lifelong love of physical fitness and the confidence to pursue my Olympic dreams.
From playing capture the flag in physical education class to double dutch on the playground to joining the school’s track and field team, physical activity was an instrumental part of my mental and physical development. There is no question that being active from early childhood through high school helped me excel both in the classroom and as an Olympic sprinter. I want every child in America to experience those same benefits of physical activity.
While math class prepares us to solve problems and English teaches us the fundamentals of writing and grammar, movement instills invaluable life skills. It is through a game of Red Rover that kids begin to develop an understanding of cooperation, and through hide and seek that critical thinking is sharpened. When children learn how strong their bodies are by swimming a lap or biking up a hill, they develop a sense of accomplishment and a positive body image. And, when kids learn how to play kickball, volleyball or baseball, they learn how to work with others to achieve a goal.
Even more, some of our earliest challenges happen through physical activity and sport. Remember being frustrated because you kept getting caught in tag? Or when your friend broke the rules in foursquare? Or losing every soccer game of the season? This is where kids learn how to deal with conflict, how to win and lose with grace, and how to socialize with their peers and elders.
With a degree in elementary education and passion for helping kids succeed, I understand that quality education is needed more than ever. I also know that being physically active for at least 60 minutes during the school day leads to an increased level of focus and performance in the classroom. With that evidence, just think about how powerful active learning environments can really be!
So, I challenge all school leaders, teachers and parents to find new and creative ways to get your students moving and playing this May. You can start by enrolling in Let’s Move! Active Schools, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, aimed at ensuring 60 minutes of physical activity a day is the new norm in schools across the country. Also, Fire Up Your Feet and Safe Routes to School National Partnership have some great resources for educators to track physical activity during the school day and help incorporate National Bike to School Day (May 6) into your curriculum. And, USA Track & Field even has a RunJumpThrow program that introduces kids to the basics of track and field.
Thank you for making a difference and for your dedication to our nation’s youth. Kudos on a great school year, and I look forward to seeing your kids moving more this May!
Allyson Felix is a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Member and Six-Time U.S. Olympic Track & Field Medalist.