Soccer program fights fat

CHESTER Students and parents gathered at Stetser Elementary School on Wednesday for the second annual Soccer for Success sweet potato dinner.

The group was part of the Chester Upland Soccer for Success program, an after-school youth development program that uses soccer to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles for underserved students.

The program is operated by Widener University through a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation. It started last year at three schools in Chester with 300 players. So far this year, the program is at seven schools in Chester and Upland with more than 400 players.

Brent Jacquette, head men's soccer coach at Widener and coordinator of the program, said he saw the benefits of the program in only its second year.

"The data we've collected has shown positive evidence that the physical activity and nutrition is making a dfference," Jacquette said.

Of the students participating in the program during the 2012-13 year, 72 percent improved or maintained their body mass index percentile, Jacquette said. Fifty-seven percent improved or maintained their aerobic capacity, and 68 percent decreased or maintained waist circumference, Jacquette said.

Janet Baldwin, principal of Stetser Elementary School, said the benefits of Soccer for Success go beyond the physical activity and nutrition lessons children receive.

"It also provides kids with a safe place to be after school," Baldwin said. "That's a really big piece, especially in Chester."

- Inquirer staff