Mattie Rhodes combines health lessons with soccer

DSC_0336-EDITED.tif

Soccer for Success. Garfield Elementary students learn the fundamentals of soccer during a Soccer for Success session led by the Mattie Rhodes Center. The program combines soccer fundamentals with interactive lessons about leading a healthy lifestyle. In the background, soccer coach Foday Kamara gives instructions. Leslie Collins

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
December 25, 2013

Missourians aren’t known for leading the most healthy lifestyles, but the Mattie Rhodes Center is hoping to break that trend.

To promote health and wellness in youngsters, Mattie Rhodes is capitalizing on a popular sport in Kansas City – soccer.

Mattie Rhodes has partnered with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to offer “Soccer for Success,” a program developed by the U.S. Soccer Foundation. According to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s website, the program is a free after-school program that “uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles for children in under-resourced urban communities.”

The 12-week program combines soccer fundamentals with interactive lessons about nutrition and healthy eating as well as the value of leading a healthy lifestyle.

“What really caught my attention is it’s not an ordinary soccer program where they just kick the ball and just focus on soccer,” said Tony Navarro, Mattie Rhodes community services specialist. “The primary focus is on physical activity, nutrition, mentorship and family engagement.”

“It (Soccer for Success curriculum) aligns with the objectives we have here at Mattie Rhodes with our health and wellness programming and youth development,” said Susan Garrett, Mattie Rhodes director of community services. “It’s all about access for underserved kids and how we can get the kids moving and expose them to the game of soccer.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 65.2 percent of Missouri adults are overweight and 30.5 percent are considered obese. Those trends also carry on to Missouri youth. In the two to five-year-old age group, 16.2 percent are overweight and 13.6 percent are obese. In adolescents, 14.4 percent are overweight and 14.4 percent are obese.

Working through the Local Investment Commission (LINC) after-school program, Mattie Rhodes has launched the co-ed soccer program for grades kindergarten through second at three Kansas City Public Schools: Garfield Elementary, Whittier Elementary and J.A. Rogers Elementary. Mattie Rhodes plans to launch another 12-week session at the three schools this spring.

“I love it. I love soccer,” said Garfield Elementary first grader Zaire Aday. “I learned to eat healthy and eat healthy things.”

Asked to name off healthy items, Aday said bananas, oranges, and fruits in general are prime examples. Asked why one should eat healthy, Aday said, “So, you can get stronger and you can get muscles.”

About 100 youth enrolled in the fall Soccer for Success program, and at each school, the youngsters meet three times a week for 90 minutes.

“Everything is centered around health and wellness, teamwork, character building, life skills and that kind of thing, but the hook is soccer,” Garrett said.

One creative way the program teaches youngsters about nutrition is through the warm-up stretches. Students will “peel the banana” or “chop up the lettuce.” They’ll also do “high knees,” also known as “stomping the grapes.” When the group divides into teams, the students have to come up with team names that involve something healthy. One time, the group named themselves the “Blueberry Thunder.”

“We incorporate health messages in fun ways that resonate with the kids and stick with the kids,” Garrett said.

Lesson topics have included Eating Habits: Full vs. Hungry; Healthy Bodies; Food Groups; Grains; Fruits; the importance of sleep and more.

When the youngsters learned about grains, they played a game where they had to dribble the soccer ball and then “plant” their grain, represented by a jersey, by setting their jersey onto the ground. As more youngsters planted their grains, they had to dribble their balls around the jerseys, so as not to destroy the newly planted grains.

Navarro said he’s already witnessing changes in the students.

Several shy children, who wanted to stay on the sidelines, have broken out of their shells and are actively participating, he said. One kindergartener at J.A. Rogers refused to play initially and sat in the corner.

“Now, he’s like, ‘Hey, coach! Hey, coach! Can I be goalie?’ He wants to learn all about it. He loves it so much,” Navarro said.

Some of the students in the program are considered obese, Navarro said, and are beginning to incorporate more physical activity into their lives.

“I ask them, ‘What are you doing on the weekends?’ ‘Oh, I’m actually running or I’m playing with my ball now,'” he said. “Hopefully down the road, that can make an impact on them.”

When Garfield hosted its Halloween party, the soccer students pointed out how the party snacks weren’t healthy and how they shouldn’t be eating them.

“It sticks. They do get something out of it (soccer program),” Garrett said.

Navarro said Mattie Rhodes hopes to expand the program in the future and hopes the lessons will continue to resonate with youngsters and change their unhealthy habits permanently.

“I’d really like to seem them be active,” Navarro said, “and as long as they have a smile on their face, that’s all that matters.”

DSC_0315-EDITED.tif

Stretch! Soccer coach Foday Kamara leads Garfield Elementary students through a series of stretches and warm-ups. Kamara said he’s passionate about soccer and wants to teach the kids the value of education and being physically active. Leslie Collins

 

 

Comments are closed.

  • Royals Opinion: Injuries to Gordon and Moustakas are gut punches, but no death knell

    May 27th, 2016
    by

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News May 27, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Can one play really submarine an entire season? […]


    Area youth have a P.A.L. this summer

    May 17th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Kansas City Police Athletic League serves roughly 800 area kids annually, and they’ll be taking 50 more under their wings this summer as


    KC Royals Opinion: Right field is officially a problem

    May 17th, 2016
    by

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Below, I promise a well-reasoned take on the issues that the […]


    City, MLB break ground on KC Urban Youth Academy

    April 26th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News Kansas City politicians, dignitaries, and even some Royals baseball players came to Parade Park on Wednesday, April 20, for the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Kansas City Urban


    KC Chiefs Opinion: don’t underestimate impact of lost 3rd-rounder

    April 21st, 2016
    by

    By  Paul Thompson Northeast News April 21, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Kansas City Chiefs’ collection of 2016 draft […]


  • KC Urban Youth Academy breaks ground

    April 20th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News April 20, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Kansas City politicians, dignitaries, and even some Royals baseball players came […]


    A grand day for baseball!

    April 5th, 2016
    by

    Royals opening day festivities included Relay the Way…


    Office Tower slated for Indep/Benton

    April 1st, 2016
    by

    Northeast Ruse KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Officials with Cashphlash, an international payday lending agency, has expressed interest in constructing a […]


    Kansas Citians invited to take part in “Longest Opening Day First Pitch” for Youth Academy

    March 22nd, 2016
    by

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Plans are underway to reunite Royals fans on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day for the “Longest Opening Day First Pitch” to raise funds for


    Pop Up Yoga

    February 24th, 2016
    by

    Last Saturday, Feb. 20, a monthly Pop-Up Yoga session was held on the lawn of the Kansas City…


  • Local Weather

  • What’s Happening

    KCPS announces free Pre-K programming for 1,100 students

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News July 1, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – New Kansas City Public Schools superintendent Dr. Mark […]

    Lost art from demolished Northeast building has been located

    Northeast News July 1, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – What was once lost has now been found. Despite assurances to […]

    KCPD calls for end to celebratory 4th of July gunfire

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News June 30, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – On July 4, 2011, 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane […]