Continuing its commitment to supporting a holistic approach to its youth sports programs, Pop Warner Little Scholars has joined forces with DSM Nutritional Products to launch the “Eat Smart, Play Safe” campaign.
The four-year partnership aims to make knowledge about proper nutrition easily available to both young athletes and their parents.
“The whole point is to help working moms get access to great nutritional information,” said Sarah Hasselbeck, the national campaign’s spokeswoman and a former All-America goalkeeper for the women’s field hockey team at Boston College. “How to spend money the right way, what snacks to have in the kitchen. Quick, smart answers.’’
The initiative marries DSM, a global company focused on health and nutrition, and Pop Warner, the nation’s largest and oldest youth football, cheer, and dance organization, both leaders in their respective industries. The program will educate families about the beverages, vitamins, and nutrients that young athletes need to succeed both on the field and in the classroom, organizers said.
Jon Butler, Pop Warner’s executive director, said its original mission statement talked about the importance of “linking a healthy mind and a healthy body.”
“We continue to believe in that,” said Butler.
Hasselbeck, wife of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a fellow BC graduate, and mother of three children ages 11, 10, and 8 , stresses the importance of a balanced diet. She says that she always has fruits and vegetables on hand, in addition to multivitamin and mineral supplements, and that her kids “know what’s good and what’s bad.”
Hasselbeck emphasized hydration, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acid DHA, and calcium as crucial to a balanced diet.
“In my experience with my kids, when I have fueled them with a chip bag or a carbonated drink or candies, things don’t go as well,” she said. “They’re definitely not the same kid in terms of energy level and attention. It’s harder for me as a mom because I know they’re not at their optimal playing. I’m not helping them out by feeding them that.”
The program will give parents access to important nutritional information on Pop Warner’s website, in a format that is both easy to understand and easy to implement. It will also provide tips on sports safety — like choosing the correct equipment — and maintaining healthy lifestyles, like getting a good night’s sleep.
Hasselbeck said that in her household, the importance of staying healthy is worked into all aspects of daily life. The long list of sports played by the three children includes flag football, basketball, ice hockey, and lacrosse. Dinner conversations touch upon the nutritional value of what’s being served — “chicken to get protein” — and references to athletes are common.
Butler, who is also vice president of the National Council of Youth Sports, said that Pop Warner is committed to a holistic approach.
“For a couple of years now, we’ve promoted about hydration and hot weather and all,” Butler noted. “We want to get good information out there that benefits the kids. Any time we do anything health related, we get very positive feedback about it.”