at Thursday, 16 June 2016
One of us is a successful insurance professional and former professional basketball player. The other is the Executive Director of the United States Tennis Association Pacific Northwest. Despite our different professions, we have something important in common: After-school physical activity helped put both of us on a path to success. Both of us also have a deep commitment to volunteerism and a concern with physical and mental health for children.
We love sports and athletics, which undoubtedly helped us on and off the court. We each went on to careers that involved sports, with the Portland Trailblazers and the USTA, respectively. But our key to success was having positive role models — parents, teachers, coaches and community members who believed in physical activity. This allowed us to begin playing and exercising at an early age.
Another key was that we had the opportunity to participate in sports at a young age. Physical activity helps young people learn discipline, focus, the value of hard work, cooperation and team-based concepts, all while embracing healthy habits and physical fitness.
Learning positive habits that lead to wellness is especially important now, at a time when close to one-third of children in the United States are considered overweight or obese. In addition, nearly three-quarters of American youth don’t get the 60 minutes of daily physical activity that health experts recommend. Research highlighted by the sports-leader network Champions for America’s Future explains that one in every 10 premature deaths in the United States is the result of inactivity, due to health issues such as heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes.
In order to address these disturbing facts, we need kids to embrace positive habits. Making physical activity part of their regular routine is a start, and getting young people to understand the wide range of benefits that physical activity provides can help cement its importance in their lives. We understand those benefits first-hand.
That’s why we believe so strongly in after-school and summer programs that teach kids the joy of physical activity and lessons that go beyond athletics. High-quality, out-of-school programs keep kids supervised, safe and engaged in meaningful activities while promoting health and wellness, physical activity and more.
With this in mind, the USTA Pacific Northwest provides fun, inclusive and affordable tennis programs that foster healthy and active lifestyles for kids, families and adults. These programs take place in public parks and school gyms, and scholarships are available to make programs accessible to everyone; more information can be found at rectennis.com.
The USTA is also hosting the quarterfinal round of Davis Cup, the world’s largest annual international sporting event, in Beaverton. The festivities will include a “Family Fun Fair” at 4 p.m. July 11 at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center; kids and families are encouraged to attend this free event.
After-school and summer programs based around physical activity can help kids learn positive habits that will last a lifetime. These activities will allow kids to embrace lifelong friendships and healthy competition. The two of us can tell you that competitive greatness, both on and off the court, begins by embracing physical fitness early in life. An investment in these programs is an investment in our children’s future health and well-being.
Matthew Warren is the Executive Director of the United States Tennis Association Pacific Northwest; Michael Harper of Southwest Portland is a former Portland Trail Blazer