PE Coach Pairs Unmotivated Students to Run with Shelter Dogs–Adoptions Soar

PE Coach Pairs Unmotivated Students to Run with Shelter Dogs–Adoptions Soar

A California gym coach who was looking for ways to drum up motivation for the students on his cross-country running team as they went away for the summer break came up with a brilliant idea: pair them with shelter dogs.

It was eight years ago when GNN first reported on it, and ever since it has become a mainstay of the training program at St. Joseph High School in Santa Maria, California. It became so much more, however, after a simple video of the kids running with the dogs went viral, causing athletic directors around the country to phone St. Joseph and ask how they organized the program. 

Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida, was the second school that picked up on the shelter dog runs, and others followed suit like Rock Island High School in Rock Island, Illinois; all because of the viral video that occasionally resurfaces on social media to the delight of thousands. 

“It was 60 seconds of genuine, organic kindness,” St. Joseph cross country coach Luis Escobar, who filmed the video, told the Washington Post. “The world needs kindness.” “The dogs want to go out and run; the kids love dogs, and they love running. It was a perfect marriage,” said Escobar.
For the original program, Escobar contacted a Santa Barbara animal shelter, which was totally on board. They ended up pairing athletes with dogs that needed to go running and giving them instructions on what to do. 

Most of the dogs weren’t in great shape, and so the running was capped at a mile. In the video, this led to an iconic moment when a high schooler comes walking by the camera with a small dog named Fred, and remarks “Fred’s had it.” As it turned out, the young man and his family decided to adopt Fred; the first of many such unions since the program’s launch, something which Escobar says is what he is most proud of. On the other end of the country, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay has been working with Steinbrenner High for 7 years on their shelter dog run. 

“Our three pillars of our cross-country team [are] gentleman, scholar, and athlete, and this really satisfies that gentleman area of caring for something that cannot care for itself,” Allison Szponar, the head coach of the team, told Fox 13 Tampa. For the dogs, says staff member Glen Hatchel at the Society, the runs allow them to burn off loads of nervous energy, leaving them calmer and more adoptable when they get back to the shelter. 

 WATCH the original video below…

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