Sometimes a little motivation can go a long way. With the Active Gamecocks program, youngsters can earn tickets to South Carolina athletics events throughout the year by making a commitment to regular exercise. There are three segments for Active Gamecocks covering the fall, winter and spring seasons.
“We designate a two-week period in each season where kids have to be active for 30 minutes per day,” said Josh Waters, Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing. “So for the fall, if they do it, then they earn a ticket for one child and one parent to attend a home volleyball, men’s soccer, or women’s soccer game. We’ll do the same thing for basketball season in the winter, and in the spring for baseball and softball. This has a huge impact on families.”
The Active Gamecocks program was created in 2011 and is aimed at children in South Carolina, as well as some areas of North Carolina and Georgia, between kindergarten and fifth grade. The goal is not only to drive attendance to South Carolina home athletics events, but also to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity through regular exercise.
“We don’t want the kids to stop being active after the two weeks,” Waters said. “You hope that this helps develop good habits for a lifetime. This is just a reward to show you what being healthy can do. We love creating fans, but we also want to show that being physically active as a child could lead some on to a path of playing sports at a high level.”
Since the program’s inception, more than 47,000 children have participated and over 330,000 hours of physical activity has been logged prior to the start of the 2015-16 academic year.
“Every elementary school in the state receives a letter from us,” Waters said. “It’s just a matter of whether they choose to do it or not. For Active Gamecocks, the principal and the P.E. teacher get a letter.”
The Active Gamecocks program is a great way to improve health for youth.Wendy Broderick, YMCA of Columbia
The Active Gamecocks program aims to encourage kids to put down the video games and get outside and play. South Carolina hopes to make a difference in promoting activities that may not be as common anymore during a typical school day.
“As budgets have been cut, P.E. is one of the things that has been cut first,” Waters said. “In a lot of places you may only have P.E. one out of every five days at school. So we hope this can sort of combat that. Our goal is to just keep expanding it. All of the Midlands schools are going to be involved in Active Gamecocks this year. Home-schoolers are a part of it now, and even some after school programs as well.”
The expanded reach of the program includes the YMCA. In fact, all of the YMCA’s in the midlands are currently participating in the Active Gamecocks program this year, and all of the other YMCA’s around the state will distribute the information about the program as well.
“With six ‘Ys’ operating throughout the Midlands, along with thousands of children participating in out-of-school programs, the YMCA of Columbia has a responsibility to the families and communities it serves to build lifelong habits in youth that create healthy futures,” said Wendy Broderick, YMCA of Columbia’s Chief Development Officer. “Driven by commitment and cause, the YMCA is proud to partner with the University of South Carolina Athletics Department to educate kids about healthy lifestyles, model healthy behaviors and cultivate environments that make it easier for kids to make healthier choices. The Active Gamecocks program is a great way to improve health for youth.”
“They are looking to fill time after school,” Waters added. “So why not keep the kids active, and let them earn tickets to South Carolina games?”
The key to the program is that the tickets are not simply given away, and that the kids can take pride in having earned the prize through their own hard work by being active every day.
“They have to work for it,” Waters said. “Some schools do it as a part of physical education class, which is great. Some say you have to go home and do it. As long as the kids are physically active, we’re game. Every place has a program coordinator for checks and balances.”
The first group of children and their parents were able to take advantage of their reward by attending the South Carolina women’s soccer match on Sunday, August 27, against Alabama. Upcoming contests tied to the Active Gamecocks program include South Carolina’s volleyball match with Texas A&M on Sunday, October 11, and the men’s soccer match against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, November 7.
For more information visit the Active Gamecocks web page.