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Army's Child, Youth and School Services instill fitness, healthy lifestyles.


THE Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command supports a variety of sports and fitness programs for children aged 3 to 18, involving more than 83,000 youth annually, with some 68,000 participating in team or individual sports.

Start Smart Sports, SKIES Unlimited School of Sports, Triple Play, Up for the Challenge and Get Fit, Be Strong!, are just a few of the programs FMWRC's Child Youth and School Services delivers to installations worldwide. All but Get Fit, Be Strong! are already in place.

The CYSS Sports and Fitness program supports military readiness by reducing the conflict between Soldiers' mission requirements and their parental responsibilities. They provide consistent and comprehensive opportunities for military children to develop their physical, social, emotional and cognitive abilities, while maximizing participation in affordable programs.

The Army's child and youth sports and fitness framework is divided into four service areas: team sports, individual sports, fitness and health, and outreach.

"We do a great job with team sports and individual sports," said Donna McGrath, CYSS Sports and Fitness director. "Fitness and health and outreach have been our focus for the last couple of years. I knew we were moving into this fitness and health realm just because of the trend in society to try to combat obesity in children."

Fitness and health programs are based on nutrition education/counseling and health promotion activities. These programs are implemented throughout the CYSS system, to include child development centers, Family child care, school-age services, and middle school and teen programs, at no cost to participants.

CYSS Sports and Fitness directors provide outreach to both in-house programs and private organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs and local parks and recreation activities. The outreach helps CYSS capitalize on existing programs in the communities surrounding the installations, and includes training for parents of kids enrolled in CYSS.

The Army also plans to piggyback on First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign with Get Fit, Be Strong!

To fulfill that goal, CYSS officials strive to deliver a holistic program that not only provides the latest in fitness training, equipment and services, but also fosters help from the homefront to make healthy living an enduring part of everyday life.

"We can start it in our centers--health, fitness and nutrition--but if it's not followed through with the community and the parents, then it will just continue as a vicious cycle where children don't eat properly," McGrath said. "We want to start children of by teaching and emulating a healthy, nutritional lifestyle in our programs, but we want to help solidify it with the Family."

CYSS provides several programs to help youth deal with stress, develop skills, instill discipline and attack obesity:

* Start Smart Sports provides training in sports skills (basketball, baseball, golf and soccer), small- and gross-motor development, hand-eye coordination and sportsmanship for ages 3-7.

* SKIES Unlimited School of Sports provides opportunities for kids from preschool through high school to participate in entry-level sports and fitness activities that not only contribute to their physical development, but also to specific interests not addressed by other CYSS programs.

* Triple Play, a game plan for the mind, body and soul, is a dynamic wellness program that demonstrates how eating right, keeping it and forming positive relationships result in a healthy lifestyle for youth.

* Up for the Challenge is a year-round program for executing health, fitness and nutrition activities within CYSS programs. The curriculum guide is accompanied by a resource kit with food models, pedometers, fat and muscle models, yoga tapes, etc., to help support the learning environment.

* Get Fit, Be Strong! is FMWRC's customized version of the President's Challenge, a national physical activity and fitness awards program. Get Fit, Be Strong! provides continued opportunities to keep young people active through sports and physical fitness activities at higher levels of physical development within the youth programs.


"It is our health and fitness campaign to combat obesity that supports Mrs. Obama's Let's Move campaign," McGrath said. "We know that (youth) oftentimes don't receive the nutritional value, according to USDA, that is required for them daily," McGrath said.

"And they're less active at home because they are living sedentary lifestyles," she continued. Play has a significant value in a child's life. They need to be active. Play helps them socialize and learn how to be a member of a team.

"Because it's not always available in schools, you see after-school programs trying to pick up that slack. We know how valuable our sports and fitness program is, and that's why it's a significant portion of our framework in school-age and middle-school and teen programs."

According to Health and Human Services Department and President's Challenge officials, children require 60 minutes of activity a day to burn the calories they consume.

McGrath hopes these programs will get the Army's youth involved in some type of physical activity and instill lifelong habits.

"We're not a competitive sports organization," she said. "We're recreational and intramural. That's why we really promote and adhere to our 50 percent playing rule. When you join a team, we want you to participate. We're not interested in running programs where children sit on the bench. It does them no good to sit on the bench." The 50 percent playing rule allows for each participant to play at least 50 percent of the game.

"And that's a constant struggle for us because we have those folks who want us to run competitive teams, but we're not built that way," McGrath added. "We're not structured that way because when we start running competitive teams, then we leave children out. We want to include children in our program. We don't want to exclude children."

The bottom line, McGrath said, is about much more than just exercise. "It's learning lifelong healthy habits. It's not just a one-time deal. That takes training and education, and that's what we need to do with our kids. If we make it fun, entertaining, (and) exciting, and wow them with our programming, then we'll be successful."

Tim Hipps works for FMWRC Public Affairs.
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Author:Hipps, Tim
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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