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Sweat Hawgs encourage youth physical fitness

Sweat Hawgs encourage youth physical fitness

By John ThomasArkansas Media RelationsThroughout the school year, Razorback student-athletes from all 19 sports participate in many different community service activities. Out of those activities, the Sweat Hawgs has been one of the longest running programs in Razorback athletics.The Sweat Hawgs program is a collaborative community outreach effort between the University of Arkansas Athletics Department, the Fayetteville Public Schools and the Farmington Public Schools. This program brings Razorback student-athletes into the schools and conducts physical education rallys to provide incentives to students and teachers to encourage physical fitness. The mission of the Sweat Hawgs is to inspire the youth to be active. “Sweat Hawgs is a way that Razorback Athletics go into the local elementary schools and talk to students about being healthy and show how important it is to be active,” Rodger Hunter, Student Life Coordinator for the athletic department, said. “It encourages young people to prioritize their health and physical fitness.”

Sweat Hawgs, which is now in its fifth year, is planning on attending 12 elementary schools this year, nine in Fayetteville and three in Farmington. The schools in Farmington include: Williams Elementary, Ledbetter Intermediate and Folsom Elementary. The Fayetteville schools include: Asbell, Butterfield Trail, Happy Hollow, Holcomb, Leverett, Owl Creek, Root, Vandergriff and Washington Elementary.The Razorback student-athletes’ role in this program is very simple, to go to each school and encourage the kids to have an active lifestyle. When arriving at the school, the student-athletes participate in a school assembly and talk to the student body. A few months later, the student-athletes will go back out into the schools and actually go into the classrooms with the kids and participate in an activity. According to Hunter, just having the kids in the presence of any type of Razorback is motivating to them. “Every time the student-athletes walk into the school, it’s like the kids’ heroes just walked in,” Hunter said. “It doesn’t matter which sport they play, their eyes light up when they walk in.”

Just having the student-athletes attend the schools is not all the Sweat Hawgs program has in store for the kids. All the schools involved in the program are given admission to one women’s basketball game during the season, with this year’s game being against Kentucky. At halftime, the schools will receive a special halftime recognition and the five schools with the largest attendance and school spirit will win money for their PE class. Not only do the athletes get involved in the program, but even the support staff is willing to provide motivation for the kids, even if that means breaking a little sweat. During one of the many stops of Sweat Hawgs, Hunter challenged former Razorback tennis player Blake Strode to a pushup contest. The jury is still out on the winner of that contest.“When I challenged Blake to a pushup contest, we did a few pushups,” Hunter said jokingly. “Of course, I stopped at 15 because I didn’t want to show off or anything.”

The Sweat Hawgs along with the many different community service programs are a great way for the student-athletes to make a difference in the surrounding area, but they also have a lasting impact on the athlete as well. “These kinds of programs really seem to make a connection with the student-athletes when we go to these schools,” Hunter said. “The great thing is when a student-athlete goes in and expresses how they got to where they are today and talks about the work involved, they really get into it. They just love being around the kids.”

It is programs like the Sweat Hawgs that can have a lasting effect on future generations on how to eat right, sleep right, stay active, and have a healthy lifestyle, which Hunter says can be fun. “That’s what I love about it,” he said. “Having the student-athletes involved and going out into the community and sending a good message for the kids is amazing. It encourages the kids because most of them want to be a Razorback someday.”

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