At times, we think we can’t possibly add more youth activities to our plate on a daily basis, yet statistics show that our youth are still not getting enough exercise. Many who are involved in multiple organized youth sports see a decline in participation and an increase in screen time. Commitment expectations, parents working more jobs and longer hours, cost increases in registrations are but a few variables that impede parents from prioritizing physical well-being in their families.
Data presented in the article, “New Data Shows No Improvement in Obesity Rates,” from Recreation Management Magazine comes as no surprise about our nation’s obesity problem. I dare ask the question, “Are WE failing our kids”? Can we collectively drive change to happen? Childhood obesity is a challenge in the Greater Danbury Area, starting with our younger kids of preschool age. Schools and area programs continue to implement the 5-2-1-0 message: five fruits and vegetables, no more than 2 hours of screen time daily, 1 hour of exercise (or outdoor play), and 0 sugary drinks. “The health issue is worsening among some of our younger children, with 34 percent of students starting kindergarten struggling with eating and exercise habits that lead to extra weight gain and obesity,” explains Maureen Farrell, MPH, RD Director of Community Wellness, Regional YMCA of Western CT, adding, “I also think the FOMO(fear of missing out), for maybe the first child, declines with child number 3 and parents are exhausted.” Many parents do not want to be driving 1 or 2 hours to away games, matches, competitions, etc. Danbury Athletic Youth Organization (DAYO) is the one of the few organizations that still offers bus transportation to football games, some track meets and cheer competitions. “It’s important to travel as a team and prepare together prior to the game; this also limits parents’ frustrations with driving their child and getting them to the location on time,” says DAYO President Nick Kaplanis.
What needs to happen with youth sports is FUNdamentals. Make it fun; make the kids want to come back for more FUN each week. Kids NEED to be active and unfortunately, we, as parents, don’t give them the opportunity for free play or figuring out what to do. We instead sit them in front of the screen for entertainment, which creates an instant gratification addiction, so for them to actually figure out what to do seems daunting. “As a child from the 70’s-80’s, some of my best memories are from playing the ‘made up’ games we did outside, EVERY DAY!” states Kathleen Smith Keefe. The best thing parents can do for their children is to get them involved in some physical activity, not only for the health benefits but also for the social interaction and the time spent away from the screen. The child does not need to be an elite athlete or strive for that, but physical activity and the social and emotional development that sports can offer is priceless.
The famous quote from Hillary Clinton, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is certainly true in sports. I am thinking of the countless times taking child 1 to practice and rushing to take children 2 and 3 to another sport function and reaching out to besties to take a child home. Investing in our children’s physical health is no easy task, but it is essential to healthy growth. Such consideration has been put forth at all levels – local, state and federal – always looking to promote policies and offer programs to prevent obesity by supporting efforts from schools, agencies and health departments. In the greater Danbury area, we have a plethora of organizations that offer physical activities starting at age 3 and even younger. For more information, visit the following organizations’ websites: Danbury Athletic Youth Organization, Danbury Police Athletic League, the Regional YMCA and the City of Danbury Recreation Department. For more information on other youth organizations, please reach out to Estela Camacho at EstelaGC005@gmail.com.
For detailed information on the Connecticut Childhood Obesity Report, 2018, please visit this link provided to you by the Regional YMCA: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Departments-and-Agencies/DPH/dph/hems/nutrition/PDF/Childhood-Obesity-Report-2018-final.pdf?la=en.
There are no easy shortcuts and getting our children to go outside and play or registering them for a sport/physical activity of their liking is an investment in better health. It is our social obligation to collectively offer solutions.
For additional information, please call Estela Camacho at 203-530-2457 or email her at EstelaGC005@gmail.com. You can also learn more about the organization at www.dayosports.com, on Facebook (Danbury Athletic Youth Organization) or Twitter (@DAYOinfosports) or read about us in Tribuna Newspaper.