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By Larry Jacobson  

Jackson, MI –  You’ve seen the public service announcements from the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball – and they all promote one thing: Get out there and get active!

It doesn’t matter what sport or activity it is, the message (promoted by some of the sports world’s biggest stars) is the importance of getting away from the computers and the video games and being active.

Andrew Sargeant , the Assistant Director at the Jackson City Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Department, supports that concept.

“We’re here for the community,” Sargeant said. “The role of the Recreation Department is to provide children and families with structured options for getting out there and living a healthy lifestyle and staying active. And we’re also an avenue for adults to volunteer their time and give back to the community.”

And the volunteer numbers are indeed impressive.

Sargeant said the rec department fielded over 100 teams in soccer, football and basketball this year – and each team featured a volunteer coach and additional assistants.

“We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” he said. “The amount of time and energy they give back to their community to stay involved is amazing.”

Computers, social media, video gaming systems, cell phones and tablets can hold kids (and adults) hostage to technological stimulation that does nothing for the physical self and often hampers true social interaction. To that end, Sargeant said the rec department provides tangible benefits to anyone who gets involved.

Rec Photo

He pointed to seven specific touch-points.

#1- The promotion of exercise and a healthier lifestyle.

Sargeant: “It gets you up off the couch or away from the computer and out where you’re engaging with other people.”


#2- The ability to work in a team setting.

Sargeant: “It helps you interact with others in a way that focuses on working towards a common goal as a team.”


#3)- It helps teach discipline.

Sargeant: “It teaches kids the discipline to play or operate within a coach’s specific plan and within the game’s rules.”


#4)- Children get used to instruction and feedback.

Sargeant: “They learn patterns of behavior that are so valuable as they get older. How to listen to instructions and behave in a proper manner and how to accept that constructive criticism.”


#5)- Dealing with mistakes and improving self-esteem.

Sargeant: “We’re all human beings and we’re all going to make mistakes, whether you’re a child or an adult. This helps kids learn how to deal with those mistakes and, through practice and hard work, how to get better.”


#6)- Real social interaction.

Sargeant: “What we offer is a chance to kids to truly interact with other kids. This isn’t about text messaging or keeping your face down in a cell phone or a tablet, it’s about real interaction with others in a team setting or in a one-to-one basis.”


#7)- Player participation and HAVE FUN!

Sargeant: “At the rec department we’re here for the majority. There are opportunities as kids get older to specialize in a particular sport or activity, but this is about building that foundation and getting kids to participate and become involved. And we want them to have fun! We want them to learn from their experiences but we want them to smile while they’re doing it.”

After spending time with Andrew Sargeant, it’s clear he is passionate about the work he does and about the impact it can have on so many lives – young and old.

“This is also about teaching children the value of hard work,” he said. “It’s amazing so see a child take up a sport – for whatever reason – and see them practice and work hard to get better at it, and then see the look on their face when they realize just how much they’ve learned and improved.”

The goal: Get out there and get active!

The platform: The Jackson Recreation Department, its’ staff and volunteers.

The key: You!

“We’re here for everybody,” Sargeant said. “It’s a chance for kids to get up off their couches and away from their computers and video games and get active. They’ll practice, work hard and have fun. And the experiences will help them later in life.”

Sounds like a pretty good slogan.

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