Ten-year-old Nadia Cotton admits that when she first came to the Boys and Girls Club, she wasn’t exactly motivated to exercise.
“I was so lazy,” Cotton says. “I was lazy, I didn’t want to do nothing.”
But Cotton soon found her strength at her local Boys and Girls Club by taking part in sports such as swimming, softball and basketball. She also started to eat better, consuming more healthy fruits and vegetables. “I eat apples, oranges. I eat a lot of healthy stuff,” Cotton says.
Cotton is one of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta’s success stories. Backed by funding from the Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, the region’s 26 clubs are able to help thousands of children each day lead healthier lifestyles, and give them the tools they need to become healthy adults.
The Boys and Girls Club will soon have a new tool in its arsenal. This year, every child in Georgia will be issued a report card measuring their physical fitness level. Called a “Fitnessgram,
” the report measures a student’s aerobic capacity, muscle strength, flexibility and body composition. Parents will get a copy of the Fitnessgram, and any recommendations for improvement.
The Arthur Blank foundation, we should note, also helped fund Fitnessgram and served as an adviser on the project.
Boys and Girls Club officials say Fitnessgram will help them help kids like Cotton, because they will be able to identify which kids need the greatest amount of support, and what they need help doing.
“It’s not just obesity,” says Eric Osborne, who oversees health and fitness activities for Atlanta’s clubs. “There are really slim kids… and you realize their cardio isn’t where it should be. They get very winded.”
Keeping kids motivated is a key part of the Boys and Girls Club success, Osborne says. The club tries to find activities that work for each child individually, as some kids thrive at competitive sports while others do better in individual pursuits such as swimming. Officials also work to promote good nutrition by teaching club-goers how to make healthy snacks at home, and even launching community gardens at some Boys and Girls Club locations, Osborne says.
But as the old adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child. With that in mind, the club also tries to educate parents as well in order to change a child’s environment as much as possible.
“You don’t have control at the dinner table or at the supermarket,” Osborne says. “That bothers you a bit, because the kids are consuming too many sodas or not eating a balanced diet.”
For now, the clubs will work to get students in the best shape possible.
“It’s about getting active, and it’s also about identifying that kids that are not active, and trying to find something that they enjoy,” Osborne says.