Children’s Health: A Team Effort

by Together Counts Partner | June 11, 2015 at 3:45 pm | comments
Soccer for Success Healthy Habits 2

Soccer for Success program participant.

One of the challenges parents and children alike face in enforcing healthy habits, is fitting exercise and nutrition into their routine. For school-age children, this challenge can be particularly daunting as they transition daily from school to home. Over the course of the busy day, it can be difficult to reinforce the importance of eating well, exercising, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. As a partner of the Together Counts™ nationwide program that inspires active and healthy living, we recognize how pivotal these are in a child’s growth.

Soccer for Success, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s free, nutrition and mentorship focused afterschool program, aims to help kids learn simple ways to weave nutrition into their everyday lives. Soccer for Success is a nationally recognized and statistically proven program that teaches kids soccer skills, as well as equips them with the tools necessary to live a healthier life. The program also provides a positive coach-mentor who also often becomes a role model. Such mentorship can take many forms, including nutritional guidance. For many children, proper nutrition can be an uphill battle. For 8-year-old Kaitlin, this was certainly the case.

At the start of the Soccer for Success season, Kaitlin’s behavioral issues were a regular interruption. She spent much of her time on the sidelines, removed from practice, and refused to participate. She would encourage her teammates to do the same. No matter how hard the coaches tried, Kaitlin refused to engage.

Her coaches grew frustrated. They wanted Kaitlin to play and interact positively with her teammates. They wanted the lessons of Soccer for Success to stick. Finally, they decided to involve Kaitlin’s mom. After practice one day, Kaitlin’s coach spoke with her mom about the vision of Soccer for Success. He explained that the aim is to encourage healthier lifestyles and active engagement, while providing role models who teach and promote kindness, patience, resilience, and focus. Immediately, Kaitlin’s mom was on board. She wanted to help in whatever ways she could, to ensure the values of exercise and nutrition stuck. She spoke with Kaitlin about the cause of her poor behavior, and reminded her of the program’s aspirations.

Since that day, Kaitlin has demonstrated tremendous change. She is quick to respond positively to her coaches, and encourages the same respect amongst her peers. Kaitlin’s awareness of healthy eating habits has also improved enormously. During a nutrition discussion, she enthusiastically shared with her team all the fruits she ate that week, proud of her progress.

Soccer for Success Healthy Habits

Soccer for Success program participant.

“The fact that her attitude changed during the season is a success,” says Kaitlin’s coach. “The fact that she was more aware of healthy eating is a success; the fact that she was a more positive influence in her peer group by the end of the season is a success. Kaitlin may never play in a major soccer championship, but she will contribute in a positive manner to her school, her family and her community.”

Small changes can make a significant impact. For Kaitlin, a support team was all she needed to get her on track, and inspire her to make healthier choices. With enough encouragement, she learned how to make health a foundation in her life. For any parent or coach, getting a child to make healthy choices every day can be a daunting task. Nutrition and exercise is a team effort. Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation’s initiative, the Together Counts program provides valuable resources to help parents practice healthy habits with their children. From involving children in meal-planning, to scheduling active family events, kids can learn the value in active, healthy lifestyles. When it comes to children’s’ health, we’re all on the same team.

To learn more about the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs, please visit www.ussoccerfoundation.org.

For more active ideas for your kids to stay healthy, head over to these other articles on the Together Counts blog!