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Ducks Host More than 1,000 Local Fifth-Graders at the third annual Captain’s Challenge Fit Finals

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks


By Jenelyn Russo

This week the focus was on fitness as the Ducks welcomed more than 1,000 local fifth grade students to the Honda Center parking lot, where they participated in physical fitness activities as part of the third annual Captain’s Challenge Fit Finals.

An initiative of the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education) program, Captain’s Challenge is a physical education curriculum that serves to inspire and motivate fifth graders by promoting healthy living concepts and fun physical activities as they prepare for the California Physical Fitness Test.

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Offered for free to participating schools through the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, Captain’s Challenge begins with a 30-day, in-class workbook that outlines healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices alongside several fitness exercises that the kids complete in preparation for their state required physical fitness test.

Additionally, the workbook introduces concepts centered on character traits that contribute to being a leader or a “captain,” such as courage, accountability and integrity. Students have the opportunity to take turns wearing the “C” for a day as “class captain,” while leading their classmates through the workbook’s activities.

More than 4,000 fifth graders participated in the workbook portion of the program at local schools, with 1,000 of those students gathering at Honda Center for the Fit Finals, where they completed each of the five assessments that comprise the California Physical Fitness Test, including sit-ups, push-ups, trunk lifts, the sit-and-reach and the one-mile run.

“Most of our kids aren’t generally interested in how they do on their physical fitness tests. It’s hard to get some kids motivated, but the Ducks Captain’s Challenge program creates a fun curriculum that the kids lead. Because it’s student guided, it makes it more likely for the kids to engage.”

Representing more than 30 classrooms from 10 local elementary schools, the 1,000 fifth graders performed each of the five assessments last fall to establish a baseline of results. Transportation for each school was provided by the Anaheim Ducks to bring those students to Honda Center this week for the Fit Finals, where they completed the same assessments with the goal of seeing overall improvement in their scores.

The morning of fitness was kicked off by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who spoke to the kids about how the qualities of a captain are not just for sports, but for making smart and healthy choices in their daily lives. He then led the students through some warm-up stretches while encouraging them to have fun and do their best as they completed the activities throughout the day.

There were 150 volunteers at the event, including Ducks staff, Ducks Die Hards booster club members, and community partners such as DejaBlue, Cal State Fullerton and the University of La Verne, who recorded the participants results. The Ducks also worked with ASICS to provide runners bibs that allowed the students’ one-mile run to be electronically recorded. Documented times and scores for each of the assessments were forwarded to all of the participating schools.

Fifth grade teacher Kristin Wielenga from Raymond Temple Elementary in Buena Park, one of the program’s pilot schools, says the Captain’s Challenge has been effective in motivating her students to get more excited about physical fitness.

“Most of our kids aren’t generally interested in how they do on their physical fitness tests,” says Wielenga. “It’s hard to get some kids motivated, but the Ducks Captain’s Challenge program creates a fun curriculum that the kids lead. Because it’s student guided, it makes it more likely for the kids to engage.”

Wielenga says that by looking at the school’s results from previous years along with emphasizing improvement, even students with lower scores and times are more likely to perform better than they would without the Ducks curriculum.

“The kids are sometimes more motivated to participate for their friends than they are for their teachers,” says Wielenga.

“I liked it and it was really helpful,” says Lopez of the workbook activities. “It’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.”

One of Wielenga’s students at Raymond Temple, 11-year old Alejandro Lopez, says that using the Captain’s Challenge workbook in class prior to attending the Fit Finals helped prepare him for the assessments.

“I liked it and it was really helpful,” says Lopez of the workbook activities. “It’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.”

After completing the five assessments, the students took a lunch break and had the opportunity to play some street hockey. They also were given the chance to visit with expo vendors including Microsoft, CHOC Children’s, Kind Bar and Whole Foods Orange County who provided supplemental information in support of the education the kids received through the program.

The high-energy day concluded with closing ceremonies, where the kids were congratulated for their hard work and perseverance. A few lucky students also went home with some raffle prizes, such as signed Anaheim Ducks memorabilia, $100 gift cards to ASICS, and a Fitbit Flex activity tracker.

Wielenga feels that the way the activities within the Captain’s Challenge program are designed have produced effective outcomes for her students, both in physical fitness and in leadership.

“When the kids encourage each other, it promotes a very positive classroom experience,” says Wielenga. “I feel all of our students do much better this way.”

For more information on Captain’s Challenge and the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit ducksscore.com.

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