New York Road Runners revamps free youth program

New York Road Runners is taking a new course with its youth programming.

For nearly 20 years, the running organization has offered free programs serving students in New York City and across the country that encourage them to get moving through laps. For this school year, it has launched a new program based on the latest research in physical education.

Rising New York Road Runners provides schools with a free curriculum of age-appropriate activities that helps students develop fitness skills and teach competence, rather than reward top performance, in what’s known as “physical literacy.”

“First you build those skills, and having those skills leads to the confidence and desire to stay active,” said Rachel Pratt, senior vice president of youth and community services of NYRR.

Rising New York Road Runners has developed activities for three age groups: 6 to 9, 9 to 12, and 12 and up. Each group builds on the one before it, starting with game-based activities for the youngest set that help develop balance and core strength. From there, students start to compete, before focusing on training for a particular sport. The focus is naturally on running, but that can be applied to multiple sports as well, Pratt said.

“We’re focusing on movement, balance and some object transfer,” Pratt said. “And we’re trying to build those fundamental skills. Runners can get injured — this helps to build lateral movement so there’s less likelihood of injury.”

NYRR based its program on physical literacy research from the Canadian nonprofit Sport from Life, and it’s aligned with the national physical education standards from the Society of Health and Physical Educators, Pratt said.

NYRR has reached 267,000 students nationally through its youth programming, including 134,000 in the city. Schools can sign up for the Rising New York Road Runners program at rising.nyrr.org.