Getting Active in School

TFK talks to Olympian Dominique Dawes about hosting a webcast about Let’s Move! Active Schools

May 06, 2013 | By Kelli Plasket
KRIS CONNOR—GETTY IMAGES

Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness Sports and Nutrition, participates in an event at Walker-Jones Education Campus, in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2012.

Gymnast Dominique Dawes flipped her way into the history books when she became the first African-American gymnast to win an individual medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. That year, she also picked up a gold medal as a member of the “Magnificent Seven” team. Since retiring from the sport in 2000, Dawes has devoted her time to helping people live a healthier lifestyle.

In 2010, President Obama named Dawes co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN). Earlier this year, Dawes helped First Lady Michelle Obama launch the Let’s Move! Active Schools campaign, a program designed to help school leaders get students moving before, during and after school. “Everyone [on PCFSN] is passionate about this cause,” Dawes told TFK. “They want the nation to be healthier.”

Today, Dawes is hosting in a live webcast for students and teachers on how schools can get involved in the new campaign. Through a partnership with Discovery Education, the webcast will broadcast live from Capitol Hill Montessori School, in Washington, D.C., from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00p.m. Eastern Time. It will feature a special message from PCFSN co-chair and NFL Quarterback Drew Brees and a physical activity break from Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix. Classrooms can register for the free webcast at Discovery Education Live. A video will also be available to view after the event.

Recently, TFK caught up with Dawes to learn about her work on the PCFSN.

In addition to her work on the PCFSN, Dawes is also a motivational speaker and gymnastics coach.
CINDY ORD—GETTY IMAGES
In addition to her work on the PCFSN, Dawes is also a motivational speaker and gymnastics coach.

TFK:

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. What is the goal of this month?

DOMINIQUE DAWES:

Physical activity is important to have at the top of your mind all the time, not just for this month. We want to educate people about the importance of physical activity and make it easy to understand what physical activity looks and sounds like, and also the benefits of being active. That's why I'm so excited to take part in Discovery Communications webcast because I'm going to have an opportunity to really get kids up and moving and active and help them understand that physical activity doesn't have to be work, it can be fun.

TFK:

Why should classrooms tune in to the webcast?

DAWES:

It's an opportunity for young people to learn from some of their sports heroes. Also, we have a chef, the First Family’s personal trainer and a pediatrician [participating]. There are so many people that have dedicated their lives to helping the nation get healthier. I want more schools to sign up and be a part of this.

TFK:

Can you talk about Let's Move! Active Schools?

DAWES:

It's really a comprehensive program that's going to help kids as well as teachers, principals, administrators and parents work together as a team to get our kids moving again. The amount of physical activity [kids should be getting] is 60 minutes a day, five days a week. This is going to be another great way that kids can get engaged and get those wonderful benefits of being physically active.

TFK:

Why is it so important for kids to be active during the school day?

DAWES:

Kids are naturally equipped to move. Not a lot of kids can sit still [for hours], and kids are in school on average seven hours a day. So if they get out and get moving and burn some of that energy that they have all balled up in them, they will be able to focus and concentrate a lot better in the classroom. Statistics have shown that kids who are physically active or participating in competitive sports tend to do better academically, have a higher self-esteem and more self-confidence.

TFK:

What is your favorite way to get active?

DAWES:

Jumping rope is one of my favorite activities. It's something that I did when I was training for all three of my Olympics. I traveled many times with a jump rope because I can jump rope anywhere. It’s a great way to get my heart pumping, and oddly enough, exerting and using all that energy somehow gives me more energy.

I always tell parents to put your kids in a number of different sports and find out what your kid loves to do and where they might have some talent. You have to experiment with a number of different sports. But gymnastics is a beautiful sport that will help kids with whatever sport that they may choose to pursue later on in life, and it's great to help them work on their flexibility coordination and strength.

TFK:

What has been the highlight of your experience as co-chair on the President's Council so far?

DAWES:

Hearing success stories. There have been a number of schools that have already signed up for Let's Move! Active Schools. Hearing how so many teachers, administrators and physical educators are being creative in finding ways to get their kids physically active is very exciting. Some schools don't have gyms, yet teachers have created breaks during the school day to get kids up and moving. Those are people that are thinking outside the box, which is what we definitely need.