Sports-Based Youth Empowerment

by Together Counts Partner | October 22, 2015 at 8:46 am | comments

Empowerment Zone Together Counts

Declining physical education in schools means communities must pick up the slack

By The Grizzlies Foundation

It is well-known that childhood obesity is a problem across the country. Nearly 45% of children living in poverty are overweight or obese, and this same group is usually the one with the least access to healthy food or structured exercise programs. Sports in schools are the last vestige of team-based exercises for kids in low-income communities, but this brings out an entirely different problem.

Only six states (Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York and Vermont) require physical education in all grades K-12, and by 2020, over one-fourth of public high schools could be without any kind of sport. Students would not only lose out on structured exercise, but also on potential college scholarships without the chance to develop their skills.

Keeping all of this in mind as well as a respect for how critical access to physical activity is for our youth is what fueled the development of the GrizzFIT Empowerment Zone, designed to provide 3rd – 8th graders free, on-site access to a portfolio of after-school electives that promote fitness, exercise and sport. The Empowerment Zone launched in September 2015 and currently offers tennis and a fitness bootcamp, with running soon to follow. With 82% of children in Memphis getting fewer than 60 minutes of exercise daily, the Empowerment Zone helps fill the exercise gap and teaches the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle. While this program currently only exists in the southwest corner of Tennessee, it serves as a model of success for leaders to start in their own communities.

The childhood obesity link to the absence of physical education in schools is on America’s radar. Organized entities such as the President’s Council of Fitness, Sport and Nutrition, Shape America and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Shape the State Initiative are all aiming to support this push to provide fitness resources to kids.

As members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, we encourage use of the Together CountsTM program, teaching healthy, active lifestyles in some way throughout all of our Foundation programs. Areas like the Empowerment Zone can expose children to a variety of new sports and skills, improving not only physical fitness, but mental and social fitness as well. As sports begin to disappear in schools, it is up to local communities to bridge the gap and find new ways to promote a healthy, active lifestyle in kids.

By investing collectively and working collaboratively, the Memphis Grizzlies organization- its owners, players and its charitable foundation – is creating lasting change to the way we live, learn and play. Connect with Grizz Community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or learn more at

For more ideas on how to make education a part of your child’s healthy, active lifestyle, take a look at these other posts from Together Counts.