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Sponsored by Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, the Double Dutch League of Massachusetts last year helped more than 600 girls hone and exhibit their jump-roping skills.

Giving Urban Youth a Jump on Good Health

As Boston basks in the glow of the Red Sox and Patriots championships, Northeastern's Urban Youth Sports (UYS) program is championing innovative ways of boosting physical and activity and good health among the city's youth.

UYS has attracted the support of numerous donors who want to enhance physical fitness and good health in their community.

"We address an important need, because city youth tend to be less active," says Shannon Spriggs, UYS program manager. According to a survey, only 30 percent of youngsters in the city play sports, compared with 90 percent in the suburbs. Plus, girls are only half as likely as boys to play sports.

Urban Youth Sports is part of Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, which strives to increase awareness of sport and its relation to society, and to develop programs that promote the benefits of sport.

Since its inception in 1997, UYS has brought sports and health opportunities to more than 7,500 Boston youth.

It pursues its mission through four initiatives, clinics for youth-sports coaches; Community Health Connection, which fosters sports participation through community health centers; summer camps; and the Double Dutch League of Massachusetts.

The Double Dutch League, for example, hosts demonstrations, clinics, camps, and competitions that teach girls how to jump rope as a team.

"Double Dutch is hard work," says Spriggs. "It's not expensive, and it doesn't exclude anyone. If the girls don't have the physical capacity to jump, they can turn; even the turning is great exercise."

UYS works closely with partners on a range of other activities, such as summer basketball and life-skills clinics, drug-and alcohol-abuse prevention workshops, a walking club for pediatric patients, and an all-girls sports festival.

Partners have included Boston Centers for Youth and Families, Boston Medical Center, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Public Schools, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, and Project Bread.

And UYS has attracted the support of numerous donors who want to enhance physical fitness and good health in their community. They include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the Boston Foundation, and Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, among others.

Most recently, the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation gave $100,000 to UYS. The foundation promotes disease prevention and health through community service, medical education, and research. It also supports Harvard Pilgrim's mission of improving the health of the people it serves and society.

Urban Youth Sports
Center for the Study of Sport in Society
Junior Coaches Acadmey
Community Health Connection
Double Dutch League of Massachusetts
  This article was published in the May 2005 issue of Northeastern University Magazine.          

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