Curbing childhood obesity the Chargers’ way

Childhood obesity is an American health issue. It is a problem this country can’t afford to ignore any longer with more than 23 million children and youths labeled as being obese. Adapting to bad food habits, lack of movement through exercise and sitting idly for hours on end watching television are certain factors that contribute to the alarming dilemma.

According to statistics retrieved from kidsdata.org, over 34 percent of students in San Diego County are labeled as obese.

The San Diego Chargers are trying to do their part to change that way of living for thousands of children and youths living in the San Diego community. One way the team has done that is through its Junior Chargers Training Camp program, which targets students in elementary school and middle school. This is where physical fitness becomes more than trivial exercise. It becomes a new way of thinking.

Chargers linebacker Manti-Teo going through drills at one of the team's recent Jr. Chargers Training Camp events. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers linebacker MantiTe’o going through drills at one of the team’s recent Junior Chargers Training Camp events. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers

Learning about making healthy and positive choices are embedded in thought process. This is where making a difference becomes reality for the Chargers franchise as they reach out to local schools to help educate students about the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Under the guise of the NFL Play 60 national program to try to reduce childhood obesity, the Chargers, through their Junior Chargers Training Camp initiative, are looking for way to encourage kids to shut down their video games and television sets and come outside and be active. That doesn’t have to wait until after the first of the year.

The holidays are here. That means a lot of food consumption will be going down. Being active during this time is a good way to combat that challenge. What this time of year also means is that a lot of people and organizations eager to be part of their respective communities through the remedies of giving back and good-hearted charitable works.

When you consider the obligations of professional sports teams such as NFL franchises, one of the things that ensure compatibility with a community is involvement.

Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker participates in the Jr. Chargers Training Camp recently. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers
Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker participates in the Jr. Chargers Training Camp recently. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers

Mixing it up young people, veterans, senior citizens and establishing a bonding with a community is critical to a team’s fan base. This could be the secret to the Chargers’ success with the greater San Diego community.

The Chargers have a huge following, an abundance of loyal fans faithful to the  Bolts-no matter which way the wind blows in the win and loss column. The one thing one can say about Chargers’ fans is that they are faithful to their football team. They swear by them.

They embrace the men and women who come to represent their community, whether it’s a trainer, scout, someone in management or  the glare of a star football player like a Manti Te’o or D.J. Fluker. That kind of relationship doesn’t just pop up.

Professional football teams have a strong bond wit their local community that starts all the way back to training camp when rookies and new faces are introduced, while grizzled veterans play up to their followers. A large part of that relationship being unified is how the Chargers are involved in the charity business.

And the San Diego team is plenty active when it comes to that mission. When one thinks of the San Diego Unified School District, the most obvious thought that comes to mind is size. The district is second biggest district in the state of California with more than 132,000 students. That’s a lot of kids to help try to get and stay active. The Chargers, though, make it work, as they go into schools nearly year round to make it happen.

For this school calendar year, the Junior Chargers Training Camp, with the assistance of STAR/PAL (Police Athletic League), began this trek with students in August and will continue to teach students non-contact, football drills through March 2016. The Chargers and STAR/PAL recently held the fourth annual on-base Junior Chargers Training Camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Sport Complex football/soccer field to work with military children and youths.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1119 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.