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Back to Sports Night Comes to Virginia

Sep 27, 2017, 10:54 AM

Patty Chamberlain, T.C. Willams Highschool PTSA president, shares her feedback on hosting a Back To Sports event, National PTAs new program launched in partnership with NFL to educate families on sports safety.

The T.C. Williams PTSA was pleased and honored to host one of the first National PTA and NFL “Back to Sports” programs. What better place to kick off a program that focuses on fitness, wellness and concussion awareness than T.C. Williams High School and the City of Alexandria, which have a strong football tradition and which were the setting of the blockbuster film Remember the Titans.

Tip #1: Host your Back To Sports Event in conjunction with an existing sports or health related event. Football games, health fair, etc.
Tip #2: Invite EVERYONE! This is definitely a community based event. Invitations should be extended to all PTA within a school district, as well as local student sports teams
Tip #3: Consider using an online RSVP system, such as Eventbrite, to get an estimate of how many people plan to attend.

Our program was held on October 12, right after one of T.C.’s home football games. We invited the entire community and sent special invitations to the local PTAs as well as the youth recreation football league. It is a little unnerving to host an event when you have no idea how many people will show up!

Thank goodness for our staff at T.C. who were flexible and helpful. I also worked very closely with our PTA Council President, Melynda Wilcox, as well as our National PTA liaison, Felisha Battle. Melynda, Felisha and I had many phone conversations as well as a meeting prior to the event to ensure that we were “all on the same page.”

The event was a great success. With just under 100 children and families there—it was fun for all. The local Trident Crossfit staff led a challenging and fun Play 60 exercise routine.

Tip #4: Use local community resources to staff interactive stations. Most gyms would love the opportunity to support the event and advertise their business. Play 60 resources can be found online. Local clinics or even the school nurse would be a great resource for nutrition stations.

The Heads Up Football team organized a proper tackling and exercise station; and the hydration and nutrition station was educational for all. Most of our participants were elementary school children, but older students enjoyed it also. “We did a lot of physical activity and the leaders showed us a lot of exercises you could do to keep fit,” said Brigid, a middle-schooler. “I learned how little time it takes to build exercise into your day to increase endurance and stay fit.”

We had as many girls as boys and they all benefited from each station. Surprisingly, no one brought a football helmet for fitting. This may have been due to the fact that the program was in October and youth football players had already been fitted for helmets. Or perhaps we could have advertised this opportunity better.We were thrilled to have Otha Thornton, National PTA president, and LaVar Arrington, former Washington Redskins All-Pro Linebacker, as special guests. They were both gracious and actively involved during the entire event. Otha met many parents and was genuinely interested in learning more about Alexandria and our schools. LaVar (and his entire family!) were happy to take pictures with students and parents, LaVar patiently signed many autographs, and his three children took part in all the events. We were also pleased that our mayor, Bill Euille, a T.C. Williams graduate, was present as well as two Alexandria City Public School board members, Chris Lewis and Marc Williams.

Tip #5: Not every PTA will be able to get an NFL star to attend but inviting local officials and a school board representatives is a must.

It was an especially great day for TC PTSA Vice-President Eric Hylton, who was able to reconnect with National PTA President Thornton, a Morehouse College alumnus and fellow classmate. “I was extremely proud that our school was able to participate in the National PTA/NFL’s Back to Sports program. It was an excellent opportunity for the Alexandria community to learn to play sports safely in a fun environment. LaVar and Otha provided an informative message on the importance of proper nutrition, and the seriousness of concussion-related injuries.”

Tip #6: Sell MEMBERSHIP! Not only at this event but at all PTA related events, there should be a membership table.

We also hosted a membership table for all the local unit PTAs in our City . We had information cards from all the PTAs which gave contact information as well as meeting dates for the academic year.

Would we do this event again? Yes, it is worthwhile and everyone had fun. But we would tweak it a bit for the future. First, we would host it again at the high school but would target the invitation more specifically to elementary and middle-school students, which is the group that probably benefits most from the program. If we had it earlier in the school year, we might have been able to have our high school varsity teams help with running the event and staffing some additional stations. (We had a couple of high school boys who helped and they really enjoyed working with the younger kids.) Second, the program worked well because the event was small. Everyone got the chance to visit all of the stations. If more children had attended there might have been long lines to participate. Third, we would avoid hosting the program on a holiday weekend (we did this because many of the National PTA people were in town for a conference, but it negatively affected local attendance). Fourth, we would have benefitted from having more advance notice. We had just a few weeks to organize and publicize the event.

I am happy to talk with anyone who’s thinking about hosting an event. It’s a fabulous community builder, an exciting event for students, parents, teachers and residents, and an important message to get out to your whole community.

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