Interviews, Philanthropy, Sports Leagues

How Character Playbook Promotes Social-Emotional Learning

EVERFI’s Character Playbook Partners with the NFL and United Way to Promote Social-Emotional Learning

When you think of the NFL’s work in the community, United Way probably jumps to mind. The two have been partners since 1973, when then Commissioner Pete Rozelle and United Way of America established the NFL & United Way Partnership. This partnership aimed to increase public awareness and social service issues facing the country.

Jump to 2019 and the 46-year partnership between United Way and the NFL is the longest running collaboration in history between a major sports league and a nonprofit. And they aren’t slowing down. The partners added Character Playbook to their repertoire in 2016 to teach middle schoolers about building healthy relationships and making good decisions.

Character Playbook is powered by EVERFI, an education technology company that partners with organizations, institutions, and educators using technology to revolutionize the way education is developed and delivered.

EVERFI’s website explains that Character Playbook allows students to engage with real-world scenarios, including bystander intervention training, resolving conflicts, effective communication, and positive relationships. Character Playbook is comprised of six lessons that cover key concepts around positive character development, social-emotional learning (SEL), and teaching healthy relationships. The program is offered primarily to 7-9th graders.

We spoke to Darian Johnson from EVERFI’s Sports & Entertainment division to learn more about the work they are doing with Character Playbook and their commitment to working with the sports and entertainment world to further their education initiatives.

EVERFI Finds Value in Sports Partnerships

In addition to United Way and the NFL, EVERFI has a partnership with the NHL and NHLPA to bring STEM education to students in the US and Canada. The company also partners with MLB on a Summer Slugger program to prevent summer learning loss. Collaborating with athletes like Charles Barkley and Alex Ovechkin, and teams like the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA Retired Players Association (just to name a few), the organization has clearly made sports partnerships a priority.

Johnson emphasizes that the company’s work partnering with those in the sports and entertainment industry is important because it draws the students. “With sports partners like the NFL and United Way, we can put on fun events to get students engaged and teach them at the same time,” explains Johnson. “Not only are their teachers telling them to take this topic seriously, but so are their role models in these professional athletes.”

After the first year implementing Character Playbook, EVERFI reported that 66 percent of students said the program helped them better define the role they can play in resolving conflict. Additionally, 74 percent of students were more likely to believe they should be treated with respect, 70 percent of students raised their expectations on how to treat others, and 69 percent said the program helped them identify actions to take to treat others with respect.

EVERFI coordinated a satellite media tour during the Super Bowl in Atlanta with their co-founder Jon Chapman, New Orleans Saints Linebacker Demario Davis and the CEO of United Way Brian Gallagher, where they promoted Character Playbook and its benefits.

Growth of Character Playbook Curriculum

To date, more than 430,000 students from nearly 4,800 schools have participated in the Character Playbook curriculum. Per Johnson, those numbers are constantly increasing. “The best thing about the program is that there is no cost to the schools,” says Johnson. The partnership between United Way and the NFL covers the cost for schools that want to take advantage of the program.

The Character Playbook curriculum is open to any school nationwide looking to implement this kind of programming. “We want to target all schools, but especially schools that may have fewer resources and want to implement these types of programs for their students,” says Johnson. EVERFI has School Managers in each region of the country that work to get schools active in programs like Character Playbook. “Those are the people on our team that work on the ground and put in a lot of effort to make everything happen,” Johnson adds.

Johnson and his team are working to actively grow the Character Playbook program to more schools around the country. “One big challenge we have is making Character Playbook known to as many schools as possible,” says Johnson. “Markets that don’t have a local NFL team or may be a state or two away from the closest team – we are really trying to get those area schools and students using the program.”

Measuring Success for the Partnership

As they continue to grow and add more schools, Johnson explains that EVERFI collects metrics in a couple different ways. Some of the most impactful feedback they receive is from the teachers at the school. The company creates impact reports for each local NFL team/United Way partnership from their area schools. These impact reports contain stories from teachers at those schools.

“One of the teachers shared that one of her students during a school assembly said to his classmates, ‘Hey! We learned about this in Character Playbook!’ which is really what we want to see happen on a regular basis,” recalls Johnson. The EVERFI team also offers pre- and post-tests to the students taking Character Playbook programs so they can analyze the scores and results from students before and after the course.

EVERFI’s goal for Character Playbook is to get it in front of as many teachers and schools as possible. Each local market has their own goals in terms of bringing on schools and students, depending on what was set ahead of time with the partners involved. “We want to put it out there to as many people as possible and continue all the great work,” says Johnson.

Johnson points to the longstanding relationship between United Way and the NFL as to why the EVERFI team is thrilled to continue working with the two organizations on Character Playbook. “Anytime you can partner with two organizations that have built on improving the community, working with students and having great programs for young people, it’s definitely a transformative partnership,” says Johnson.

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