By Ken Reed
America has a childhood obesity crisis on its hands.
Video games, social media options, the decline in school-based physical education and intramural sports, and lack of access to parks and recreation facilities have all contributed to an increase in physical inactivity among young children and teenagers. Research shows that inactive kids have a high likelihood of becoming inactive adults. And physical inactivity increases the risks for a variety of diseases, while also boosting the nation’s healthcare costs.
As such, getting our young people moving more frequently needs to be a high socio-cultural priority across the United States. Fortunately, a growing number of communities are taking this issue seriously and have developed creative ways to take playgrounds to where high-risk kids live.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana (a state with the fourth-highest rate of youth obesity in the nation), the Baton Rouge Recreation agency (BREC) bought a box delivery truck, painted it with bright colors and filled it with scooters, hula-hoops, balls, slack lines, trampolines, sidewalk chalk and jump ropes. BREC then began taking the mobile playground to housing complexes, churches, parks and schools in low-income neighborhoods.
“We realized it wouldn’t take much to get kids moving if we put it right in front of them,” said Diane Drake, director of BREC’s playground on wheels. Drake said the program was an immediate success. Mobile playground days were highly anticipated by local children.
“Once word spread, children would come running out of their apartments as soon as we pulled into the parking lot,” Drake said. “It was all we could do to unload the equipment before they grabbed it and ran off.”
BREC officials took their mobile playground to a meeting of the National Recreation and Park Association in Charlotte and discovered there were a lot of towns and cities interested in the program. Copycat programs have started to spring up in other communities around the country.
The mobile playground concept is certainly making kids happier and it’s also meeting its goal of getting kids moving more often. Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that these types of programs increase kids’ physical activity by about 50 percent.
The only thing stopping the mobile playground idea from spreading more rapidly around the country is funding. Many recreation departments just don’t have the dollars to start a mobile playground program. BREC’s initial funding of $110,000 came from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and BREC’s local parish budget.
Here’s hoping more corporate sponsors and philanthropists see the benefits of mobile playgrounds and step up with the necessary funding to rapidly expand the mobile playground concept.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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