Sports Organizations Use Learning Tools To Engage Young Fans

    • While sports remain on hold, leagues and teams are actively seeking out ways to educate their young supporters.
    • The Diamondbacks, Texans, and USTA are just some sports properties providing families with educational resources at home.

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From Hurricane Harvey to the Santa Fe High School shooting in March 2018, the Greater Houston area has  dealt with several local catastrophes. In those toughest of times, the Houston Texans have looked to play a role in supporting their community.

Now, as local students continue to remain at home while schools remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the Texans are looking to use their “Huddle at Home” platform to keep them active and engaged during this difficult period.

The NFL team is just one of many sports organizations that are looking to help their youngest supporters by supplying them and their families with educational tools and fun learning experiences that use sports as a backdrop.

“We try to provide distractions when appropriate,” Jennifer Davenport, the Texans’ vice president of marketing and community development, said. “Being a good community partner, staying in touch with the needs and when people need our help the most, being able to react and provide support, we’re just always trying to make sure we find the right tone and right message and right opportunities.”

The Texans’ Huddle at Home platform provides numerous digital education resources for parents, kids, and teachers. In collaboration with ConocoPhillips, Huddle at Home includes a section called “TORO’s Math Drills,” where the Texans’ mascot helps 3rd and 4th-grade students with subjects like fractions, multiplication, division, place value, and money.

In addition to helping students with math, TORO is also encouraging them to read more at home. With “TORO’S Reading Challenge,” the mascot is challenging every student to read 30 minutes for 30 days in April. 

For kids to participate, they need to sign up online to download TORO’s reading log, where they can keep track of the books they are reading – and for how long. At the end of April, students are asked to email their reading logs to TORO, with each one receiving a personalized certificate of completion – and five students randomly selected to win various Texans prizes.

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The Texans are also relying on their players to help connect with kids through reading. 

One segment of Huddle at Home is “Texans Story Time,” where team cheerleaders, ambassadors, and players come together to read a variety of children’s books. Players like wide receiver DeAndre Carter and tight end Darren Fells have been seen reading popular kid’s books, including Where The Wild Things Are and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have also upped the amount of content coming from its kids-specific website, Josh Rawitch, the team’s senior vice president of content and communications, said. 

Some of that has been focused to provide fun and entertainment. The team will soon be unveiling a 1,000-piece puzzle set that they made from scratch for families with kids to replicate from home. Arizona also created a Lego set that can build a team hat, and Rawitch has plans to make it into a contest by sending sets to five different people.

The Diamondbacks have other ways to keep kids engaged. Beyond word searches and crossword puzzles, they have videos that take baseball terminology like baserunning and ballpark dimensions and incorporate them into STEM lessons – not unlike other resources that Rawitch has been using at home with his family.

“At 1:30, I sit down with my son and utilize the online tips that the Baseball Hall of Fame has to teach math and history and science,” Rawitch said. “Every day at 1:30, we’ve been doing a hall-of-fame lesson. I think that all of us in the social media world or the content world are looking for ways to keep our fans engaged of all ages because we know that people right now need it.”

While cancelations and postponements have struck the tennis industry particularly hard, the USTA is using its Foundation’s Academic Creative Engagement (A.C.E.) Curriculum to reach its budding tennis players. 

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, there will be a newsletter centered around the USTA’s “Net Generation” initiative, Craig Morris, chief executive of community tennis, said. Since launching in August 2017, the program has grown to more than 300,000 youth and 100,000 parent signups, he added. 

Content through “Net Generation” ranges from healthy exercise routines from coaches and professionals like Madison Keys and the Bryan Brothers to a daily “Family Math Challenge” worksheet.

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While the content has initially been focused on elementary-and-middle-school students, the USTA is also in the process of creating material not only for high schoolers but for adults as well, Morris said.

Despite the unusual circumstances, Morris is thankful for the feedback that the USTA has received from parents, and how that has shifted their priorities for keeping them and their kids busy.

“What we’re receiving back from the parents is that they’re as much appreciative of the tennis activities just because of the struggle that they are having,” Morris said. “Often they are working at home, trying to keep their kids busy with many of them going through online schooling. So it’s making sure that we serve up enough different types of activities and different types of content to keep kids engaged.”