people packing bags of at-home sports equipment
Game On Philly provides free sports equipment, healthy foods, and online coaching to Philadelphia middle school students

With its playbook revised by COVID-19, the Game On Philly program launched its virtual program earlier this month, delivering free sports equipment, healthy foods, and online coaching to Philadelphia middle school students.

The program, now called "Game On Philly: Camp From Home," is a collaborative effort between the College of Public Health, the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative, nutrition education organization Eat Right Philly, the School District of Philadelphia’s Department of Athletics, and Temple's School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. The program also received support from the Share Food Program, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for families, and a number of nonprofit sports-based youth development programs across Philadelphia that deliver online sport-sampling lessons, including Legacy Tennis, Give & Go Athletics, Zhang Sah, Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Kensington Soccer, Girls on the Run, Youth Mentoring Partnerships, United Philly Soccer, Philly Girls in Motion, Young Quakers, and Street Soccer USA.

Game On Philly originally was planned as a four-day-a-week after-school program at six middle schools, involving sports-based activities, nutrition education, and positive youth development.

It briefly launched in three schools in March when the school system closed and sent students home.

"In April, we realized that schools weren't going to re-open, and we really needed to do something to engage kids," says Gina Tripicchio, assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the College of Public Health, who is the program's evaluation leader. "So we designed a comprehensive summer program that could be delivered remotely."

What had been envisioned as a summer follow-up to the in-school activities has become the main event, running for six weeks through mid-August.

Game On team leaders met to assemble and deliver the first of three activity kits for 70 Philadelphia students from four middle schools. The kits, which were hand-delivered to homes, each included a basketball, soccer ball, yoga mat, jump rope, and exercise bands.

"We reached out to principals and the teachers and asked 'what do your kids and families really need?  They said online content is great, but they really need resources and things to keep them busy," says Tripicchio. 

Temple University students, working as part of Tripicchio’s research team, helped develop the materials for the activity kits. Nursing student Kathryn Kline and Moraine Yala Kisenda, a biology student from the College of Liberal Arts pursuing a minor in public health, created information sheets on staying safe during COVID-19 and a tracking poster for students to record their activities and win prizes after completing a set amount. Public health student Natasha Krishnaraj prepared healthy recipes that were included along with produce boxes provided by Philadelphia-based Share Food Program. Two more activity kits will be delivered over the course of the six-week program.

The program has created a private YouTube channel where partner organizations share sports, activity and workout videos that put the equipment to use, engaging students with new content daily.

"Some of them are workout- or exercise-based, like cross training, yoga, or jump rope. Some are more sports focused, like dribbling skills for soccer or fundamentals of martial arts," Tripicchio explains.

A third component of the program will connect students with motivational messages. A teacher from each school acting as a health coach will provide ongoing motivation, alerts about new videos, and other information via the Remind app.

College of Public Health students enrolled families into the program and created recruitment materials, including a recruitment video by undergraduate public health student Anna Woolslager. Carolyn Bresnahan, an MPH student, and Calesta Groff, an undergraduate public health student, helped design the online database used to track participation and evaluate the program. Graduate sport business students Noah Griffith and Amanda Ehrhardt from the School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management coordinated the logistics of the activity kit deliveries and helped develop coach training modules.

Game On Philly: Camp at Home is funded by a grant from the Youth Engagement in Sports (YES) initiative of the Office of Minority Health and the Office on Women's Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.