Camp tackles childhood obesity
Packers bring skills course
By Greg Seubert
Waupaca County Post sports editor
WEYAUWEGA – It may have been one of the coldest days in months, but that didn’t stop Weyauwega Elementary School students from having a little fun while getting healthy.
When the Green Bay Packers showed up at the school on Sept. 27 with its Youth Football Outreach Camp, more than 200 students in grades 2-5 had a chance to learn a few football skills.
They also learned about being active and eating healthy foods.
“We have several different courses set up where the kids get to run around and be football players for the day,” said Ryan Fencl, the Packers’ youth football coordinator. “It’s mainly about getting the kids outdoors, running around, having fun and being active. Not all NFL teams do this. We actually got the idea for this program from the Indianapolis Colts. We kind of made it our own and designed our own courses. They all have different skills and obstacles that they have to go through and they all have something different.
“The biggest challenge we face is kids nowadays have video games,” he added. “In the summer, you see kids sitting inside watching TV. We have to show them that it is fun to get outside, run around, be active and play with their friends.”
Several Weyauwega-Fremont High School football players assisted the students at each station. Junior Noah Rucks threw a football to kids as they dove through padded barriers.
“While the courses we have here incorporate football, there’s something for everybody,” Fencl said. “You don’t have to be a boy and play football. We encourage girls to go out for football, especially at the youth level. We want this sport to be for everybody.”
Fencl takes the camp, geared to grades 2-5, to elementary schools throughout Wisconsin each spring and fall.
“We’re booked for this year, but I’m going to start accepting new schools for next year in January,” he said. “We go to about 23 to 25 schools a year. Depending on the school size, we’ll either do one session or two like we’re doing here today.”
Several kids showed up at school in Packer jerseys, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Fencl said it’s easier getting the kids excited about the team during football season.
“There’s definitely something to be said for getting the kids outdoors and doing football drills while the Packers are playing, especially after a win because everybody’s excited,” he said. “In the spring, everybody’s starting to get that spring fever and want to get outdoors and run around. It’s a different feeling that works just as well.”
The camp goes hand-in-hand with the NFL’s Play 60 and Fuel Up to Play 60 programs.
NFL Play 60 encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity, while Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.
“Our Youth Football Outreach Camp is part of the Play 60 program, which stresses getting outside and playing, as well as the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which emphasizes eating right, eating healthy and staying away from the junk foods so you do have the energy to get outside and be active,” Fencl said.
So are the kids that participate in the camp getting the message?
“We think so,” Fencl said. “These camps do a good job of showing them how much fun they can have, especially being outside with their friends. They see how much fun everybody else is having. It’s contagious and everybody wants to join in and have fun.”