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District wants kids to get their Game On

The intramural sports program will be piloted in 4th through 6th grades.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District of Philadelphia is among the players in Game On Philly!, a new initiative seeking to bring sports-based out-of-school-time activities to schools and neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.

The local nonprofit Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative will lead the five-year program, which hopes to raise $1 million in funding. After 2023, they aim to bring in $500,000 annually, said Beth Devine, executive director of the collaborative.

District spokeswoman Megan Lello said the District would pilot an intramural sports program for elementary schools, focusing on 4th through 6th grades, and identify schools to host the program over the summer.

The District also will create a comprehensive training curriculum for student-athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators.

“This is not just about more opportunities for our student-athletes in sports,” said Superintendent William Hite. “This work is going to help us find ways to use sports to better develop well-rounded young people.”

Read a commentary from the District’s director of athletics here.

The initiative comes after the release of a report that found that only 20 percent of Philadelphia’s 4th- through 8th-grade students get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, while another 20 percent get none at all.

The report also found that sports-based youth activities can aid in physical, academic, and social growth. Students who participate are less likely to engage in risky behavior and more likely to maintain good attendance and graduate high school.

Mayor Kenney said the initiative promotes his goal of giving the city’s children an equal opportunity to succeed.

“It’s about equity,” Kenney said. “It’s about financial equity. It’s about educational equity. It’s about recreational equity. It’s about racial [and] ethnic equity. It’s about gender equity. And we’ve taken a long time since we’ve invested in our kids. … This is about putting kids together in positive situations where they’re not distracted by the negativity that’s around them.”

Through the program, the District and the city will receive assistance and oversight to ensure that schools and facilities have accessible and affordable sports-based programming. This includes training and recruitment for professionals and volunteers to run the programs and help with improving quality and expanding reach.

Since 1st grade, Tamara Armstrong, 15, has been a member of a local youth program, where she began playing tennis and basketball. Now, Armstrong is a rising sophomore at West Philadelphia High School and a member of the track team, she said.

She said being in the program has helped her to be happier and outgoing. Giving every student the opportunity to get involved in sports will have a positive benefit for kids, she said, because “they won’t have to stay in the house cooped [up] watching TV or on their phones all the time.” They can “just get out, have fun, and enjoy themselves.”