The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and United Way Suncoast today held a celebration of the first year of Character PlaybookTM, a new education initiative focused on youth character development and building healthy relationships. This year, 16 local schools and more than 100,000 students nationwide participated in the interactive digital program that will continue to be implemented throughout the Tampa Bay area.
"We are so excited to partner with the United Way on this venture, as it reinforces our commitment to the youth of our community," said Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford. "The Character Playbook program is an impactful tool that inspires personal development. Connecting students through thoughtful conversation and incorporating lessons from the football field into everyday life helps students challenge not only themselves, but each other. These are learning opportunities that will help grow our community's kids into our future leaders."
The Buccaneers teamed up with United Way Suncoast to host two Hillsborough County schools for the NFL's Character Playbook Experience on Thursday.
Character Playbook is the latest innovation in the more than 40-year partnership between the NFL and United Way. Character Playbook modules are designed to help students develop healthy relationships and social emotional skills. The program will be evaluated by measuring student knowledge gains as well as attitude and behavioral change and is being applied in all 32 NFL markets, courtesy of the United Way Worldwide and the NFL Foundation.
Thursday's celebration event at One Buccaneer Place took 80 local students through the Character Playbook Experience. The morning was kicked off with a panel discussion in the team's auditorium led by Buccaneers Team Insider Casey Phillips, tight end Alan Cross, Buccaneers cheerleader Julia, Director of Community Relations Meredith Scerba and United Way Suncoast Tampa Bay Area President Emery Ivery. Joining the conversation were students from Franklin Middle School and Walker Middle School in Hillsborough County to discuss character development and decision-making. Following the dialogue, the group moved to the team's indoor practice facility to take part in seven different activity stations focused on learning about one's character through football.
"This is such a great opportunity to partner with the Buccaneers," said Suzanne McCormick, United Way Suncoast President & CEO. "We both care so much about youth development, this is the power of organizations coming together to create an incredible experience for kids. More than ever, children need opportunities to have conversation and learn about character development, so this program is fantastic. We need more of it."
Character Playbook uses evidence-based strategies to educate students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships during their critical middle school years. The course is comprised of six interactive, digital modules that cover key concepts around positive character development, social-emotional learning, and building healthy relationships. Designed for students in grades seven, eight and nine, the digital learning experience enables students to engage with true-to-life scenarios that include bystander intervention strategies and positive relationship examples.
"Bullying, cyberbullying and teen dating violence continue to be pervasive issues that put immense pressure on communities across the United States," said United Way Worldwide president and CEO, Brian Gallagher. "Couple that with escalating violence, strife and lack of trust and opportunities in communities and it underscores the real need for programs that help kids understand how best to manage emotions, resolve conflicts and communicate effectively."
The Character Playbook initiative was launched nationally during the 2016 NFL Draft and is powered by education technology leader EverFi, which works with more than 20,000 K-12 schools.