If we want young people to acquire new, healthy habits, we have to do more than lecture them. We have to inspire them so they become self-motivated. That's exactly what the NFL is doing with NFL Play 60, the national youth health and fitness campaign encouraging young people to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. It's an innovative program designed to help fight obesity.
Students will have the opportunity to ride to school with an NFL player and join him in leading classmates through the once in a lifetime physical education class.
The NFL and JCPenny presenting “Take a Player to School" program understand we have to reach out to young people on levels that excite them to learn. This is a new time and age when celebrities are the ones young people are listening to, and if that's what it takes to help inspire our kids to stay healthy and to stay in school-Hooray! At least something is working.
Young people across the country from inner city to suburbs are dropping out of school at an epidemic rate. Our nation can't afford to fall much further behind on the world's playing field.
What we have to emphasize with our children, is superstar athletes like Tom Brady of the New England Patriots or Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams, participants of the NFL Play 60, did not quit when faced with obstacles, and they can't either. They must stay in school.
Players are inspiring young people, but young people are also inspiring the players. Denver Bronco Brandon Marshall who was suspended for three games for domestic violence charges decided to visit the Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives Program in Northeast Denver. The program was launched by Rev. Leon Kelly in the mid-80's to encourage kids to dream big dreams. Upon his visit, Marshall was touched by the young people who he encouraged to keep focused and follow their dreams.
"I told myself and people around me that, once the season started, I'm going to make it my business to come out here often, as much as I can, " said Marshall.
These football players feel children's unconditional love, unlike adults who may judge them on or off the field. If they fumble the ball, or get involved in a scandal, a player knows that an adoring fan may instantly turn against him.
On the other hand, kids are forgiving and these players are still their heroes. This is why it is so important for athletes to understand they have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a respectable manner. Millions of young people are watching and wanting to emulate these players. And those athletes who volunteer and reach out to young people, are helping to shape America's future, which even more impressive than winning the next Super Bowl.
WALTER H. JACKSON, Msc. D. , is author of the memoir “Sporting the Right Attitude: Lessons Learned in a Troubled Family, " which is also a self-help book for young adults. Walter is a versatile key-note speaker and personal growth trainer who has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows around the country. Visit his website http://www.SportingtheRightAttitude.com