Last Sunday evening, I attended an enjoyable community fundraising event to benefit young athletes and teams in the Flagstaff Soccer Club: The FSC United Jog-a-thon. When I heard about the event from my chiropractor, I was excited to get involved and help ‘sponsor’ a player.
The Jog-a-thon was set up so that players would receive pledges based on how many laps they complete during a 30 minute period. The pledges and money raised would go towards team equipment and travel expenses for their upcoming season. I thought this event was an excellent fundraising idea; it encourages the players to establish goals, and challenges them both as individuals and team members to achieve their goals. It is also a great way to give youth positive exposure to the sport of running while promoting fitness within the community.
I think the event also personally appealed to me because it reminded me of my own transition from soccer to running. Growing up, I started playing soccer in the first grade and continued on for 8 years, developing into a competitive mid-fielder for club and school teams. While not the most agile or graceful ball-handler, my aerobic capabilities enabled me to cover both sides of the field for the duration of each match. However, just before entering high school, I was persuaded into joining the cross-country team. I was instantly drawn to the competitive aspect and quickly de-mythed about the sport: running is not a punishment, it actually felt good! Once I left the ball behind, I never looked back!
Of course it would be great to see some of the athletes from Sunday evening make a similar transition and leave the ball behind. At 7000 feet in Flagstaff, they are already immersed in a rich distance running and endurance sport culture. But it’s more important for young kids to be doing any routine physical activity– a sport that they enjoy and that keeps them growing healthy.
Ali accompanied me to Foxglenn Park for the evening and we clapped and cheered in support of #12 of the Black Widows. He easily exceeded his goal of 20 laps for the half hour. Not bad! Other players (and parents who had joined in) had similar expressions upon finishing the Jog-a-thon, reflecting the exertion of the run. However, smiles were in abundance afterward, and everyone left the field with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
I hope there are more Jog-a-thons and community events to invite more to participate in our sport and encourage healthy and active routines. Running is one of the most accessible sports, and anyone can start running at any age.