March 16, 2012
Happy Birthday to the Hershey Track & Field Games
The Hershey Track and Field Games is the largest youth activity program of its kind in North America. This year, in celebration of its 35th birthday, Hershey is inviting family to birthday parties throughout 2012 to help them have fun and get active. Families are also invited to visit their site to download a free RUN, JUMP, THROW Birthday Party Kit for activity based games that you can do at home with your kids.
Thanks to my husband, we're a track and field-obsessed family, so I was overjoyed when I had the opportunity to chat with Olympic legend Carl Lewis about his involvement in the organization. His impressive record includes nine gold medals and a career that spanned more than a decade.
When did you get involved in the Hershey's Track and Field Games?
Seven years ago. Before that, I was involved with the Jesse Owens Games so they invited me to the North American Finals in Hershey, PA. From there my involvement increased each year and I am now thrilled to be on the Board.
Why is it important for children to be active and what does participating in athletic competitions like Hershey's teach children?
Sports teach kids teamwork and success that cannot be replicated elsewhere. There are so many opportunities for kids to create their own reality these days, but you can't do that in sports. You have to work together and the results are clear. Athletes also learn life lessons about training, hard-work and healthy eating that translate to all aspects of life.
How can we help motivate kids to stay active?
Sports are about having fun! Help kids focus on being their best. No one from my childhood would have guessed that I would go on to be in the Olympics. There is no correlation between success as a child in athletics to success as an adult. People grow and mature at different rates so the emphasis should be on personal successes not winning. By age 13 most kids stop doing sports because it stops being fun. Families need to help stop this trend. Parents need to remember their train has left the station. Stay in the stands, have fun and cheer on the kids. No matter how your child does go out afterwards to celebrate with an ice cream and talk about the day.
How did your childhood influence your success?
My parents were both teachers and coaches so track events were a big fun family affair every weekend. It was like a vacation for us! We would pack up the fried chicken and everyone went to have fun. Even if it was all girls event, I was there to hold the supplies, cheer and they had to keep me from eating all of the chicken.
What can families do to encourage their children to stay active and how do you stay in shape now that your not training?
Just taking a walk and talking is an easy first step. I love to garden and think it is a great way to involved kids in a healthy lifestyle. They can take ownership of what they plant and see the results. Running is wonderful because you don't need much in terms of equipment or location. No matter where you are you can have your child run a short distance and make it fun. Try to make being active a family affair by buying both you and your child a basketball, bike or Rollerblades. Even if you aren't good, they will have fun doing it together. In addition to gardening I workout and eat a healthy diet.
How did you deal with the pressures of competing?
My first Olympics were the 1980 ones which we boycotted. It gave me the opportunity to meet other more experienced athletes and compete without the pressure. My second Olympics were in LA so it was good I had the experience of the first Olympics or it would have been overwhelming, but I was too young to understand the pressure. I also made it a family affair by renting a house for my whole family. I had the best coach and he believed in knowing your body which helped me stay injury free throughout my career. He never had me train more than five days a week and if I was injured I rested.
*Disclosure: I partnered with Hershey’s for this event and received products, but the information expressed in this article is purely my own. It was an honor to be included in such an amazing, important initiative!
© 2013 Macaroni Kid, LLC