TEMPE – After beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 40-7 on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals certainly earned a day off.
But while some players were probably sleeping late, center A.Q. Shipley’s Tuesday morning started out bright and early on a playground, surrounded by elementary school students.
Shipley went to Holdeman Elementary School in Tempe Tuesday to help the Arizona Cardinals and Fuel Up to Play 60 promote health and fitness to youth.
Play 60 is a program sponsored by the NFL that encourages kids to get out and engage in physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily in an effort to promote a healthier lifestyle.
“The biggest thing is making kids be active for at least an hour a day,” Shipley said. “That’s the whole thing we try and stress.”
Shipley, along with the Cardinals mascot Big Red and two of the Arizona Cardinals cheerleaders helped the kids of Holdeman get their 60 minutes of play by running them through various drills and competitions.
It is the type of exercise that Shipley believes has been lost in a generation so focused on technology.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t have that stuff,” Shipley said. “As soon as I got home from school, it was go play at the park, get with my buddies. In a world where it’s kind of a tech world now, it’s cool that we’ve kind of implemented this thing and we can come out on Tuesdays and do this stuff.”
On this Tuesday, the kids would run through a gauntlet of bags before being thrown a ball by Shipley. They stood in a giant circle under the supervision of the cheerleaders and tried to pass a ball to each other without dropping it. And they tested their agility by running through a formation of cones while being cheered on by Big Red.
But Fuel Up to Play 60 isn’t just about exercise. It also focuses on trying to get youth to choose to eat healthy. Through sponsorships with organizations such as the Dairy Council of Arizona, the program encourages all aspects of a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s vitally important that we get kids to be embracing that healthier lifestyle, and that’s what I love about Fuel Up to Play 60,” said Pat Johnson, director of nutrition services for the Dairy Council of Arizona. “We’re seeing that pendulum swing in a positive way. They’re being more physically active, and they’re choosing those healthier, nutrient-rich foods.”
Johnson believes [the positive change is a result of the Dairy Council’s partnership with the NFL, and because] the message means a little bit more coming from star athletes.
“To have a football player, or Big Red or the cheerleaders come out, and that star power of the NFL, it really helps drive that point home,” Johnson said. “And I think it resonates more with the kids.”
In order to continue to help promote fitness throughout the area, the NFL and the Arizona Cardinals took this event as an opportunity to present the Tempe Elementary School District a $10,000 grant, due to the district’s strong support of the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. The grant is intended to help the district implement more wellness initiatives.
“The grant is intended to be used by the whole district,” Johnson said. “It can be used for curriculum, it can be used for equipment, as long as it has the potential to impact 100 percent of the kids. Not that 100 percent of the kids will take advantage of it, but it will impact all of them.”
But something that does have an immediate impact on the kids is seeing NFL players like Shipley delivering the message about being active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It is something Shipley takes pride in, and he believes it is his responsibility to continue to use his success and star power to help set an example for the kids at events like the one at Holdeman Elementary.
“(I can) come out here and be a leader in the community, be a guy that comes to these schools and different events and do that and talk about it,” Shipley said.