The Buccaneers have facilitated the Buccaneers Academies initiative over the past few years, impacting 14,000 students in the Bay area, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Owner and President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation and the Glazer Family Foundation Darcie Glazer Kassewitz wondered if there was a way to expand that reach even further.
Enter in the Jr. Bucs School Program. With three main components, the Jr. Bucs Fitness Challenge, the Jr. Bucs Reading Challenge and the Jr. Bucs Flag Football program, the program aims to benefit the 'whole child,' both body and mind. The reading challenge includes a partnership with the MyOn reading program that provides students access to thousands of books.
"We started with our 24 Buccaneers Academies and we really wanted to grow the program to reach every child in Tampa Bay," Glazer Kassewitz said. "Now we are reaching nearly 200,000 students in 300 schools and we are so proud."
For the launch, 100 students from schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties came out to the new indoor training facility at One Buccaneer Place to catch the tail end of the Buccaneers' last open training camp practice and then some football drills with Buccaneers players. Before they took to the field, both superintendents from Hillsborough County Public Schools and Pinellas Public Schools addressed the group after Glazer Kassewitz.
"We know if we can change their lifestyle now in their development – in elementary, middle and high school with these tools and skills – then physical fitness will remain with them for the rest of their life," said Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego.
Physical fitness testing is already a standard across the state. It was a natural fit for the Buccaneers, who will provide new fitness equipment, plus player-led instructional videos on healthy exercises. The flag football program comes with a whole kit to be added into the school's physical education curriculum.
"Our two school districts, our focus is our students," Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins said. "Everything that we can do, anything that our partners can do that align with our mission and we can work together on that to support the overall achievement and their success, that's what great partnerships are all about. And that's why we're so very proud to be partners with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."
"We have worked so hard over the past year to really plan the right program and when we hear from the superintendents that it's so impactful for them and helpful, it means the world to us," added Glazer Kassewitz.
And with that, Buccaneers players took multiple groups of children through mini-flag football scrimmages. The day concluded with defensive end and Florida-native Jason Pierre-Paul breaking down the large group huddle. He crouched in the middle all 100 children asking them in louder and louder increments, "Did we have fun today?" to which the kids enthusiastically replied, "Yes!"
Pierre-Paul was joined by defensive end Will Gholston, defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert, safety Keith Tandy, wide receiver Chris Godwin and right tackle Demar Dotson.
"We have a lot of other sports teams here, but none like the Bucs," Grego said. "I want to say thank you publicly for your commitment to our students, not only to those who were able to make the trip here today, but each and every day that our students are able to enjoy the physical education, curriculum and the equipment."