Character Education


Former NFL player Joe Erhmann and high school coaches from around the country discuss the importance of strong character.

InSideOut Initiative

The InSideOut Initiative was co-founded by NFL legend Joe Ehrmann and Minnesota High School League associate director Jody Redman to help transform the "win-at-all-costs" sports culture in high school communities, where value is only defined by the win-loss record, to one that defines and promotes the life-sustaining development of the athlete's inner life.

Powered by the NFL Foundation and piloted in Colorado and Texas in 2015, the InSideOut Initiative catalyzes partnerships with educational leaders, state athletic associations and NFL clubs to redefine the role of interscholastic sports and help intentionally develop the educational, social and emotional well-being of each student athlete.  According to the InSideOut philosophy, there must be a significant shift in what our culture values for coaches to provide student athletes - both boys and girls - with more than physical skill development, strategies and rules of the game. InSideOut provides a blueprint for that systemic change.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro have been formally evaluating the InSideOut Initiative since its pilot inception. Data shows the Initiative is creating the space for intentionally providing character growth opportunities for students through their sports experience.  See full year one outcomes here.

The NFL Foundation is funding statewide implementation of the InSideOut Initiative with NFL clubs in California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, with plans for further expansion to additional states and NFL communities. 

NFL/United Way Character Playbook

The NFL/United Way Character Playbook program is a digital education program that helps middle school students learn how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships.  The NFL, along with longtime partner United Way Worldwide and digital learning innovator EVERFI, Inc., created this scalable and evidence-based program which has rolled out in all 32 NFL market communities with NFL clubs and players as well as local United Ways over the past two years.

Character Playbook consists of six interactive modules that support positive character development, social-emotional learning and healthy relationships for students in grades 7-9.  By the end of the program's first year, approximately 1,300 teachers helped 88,000 students in nearly 30 states complete more than 170,000 hours of learning.  This led to a 41% increase in student understanding of key social-emotional topics based on pre-and post-assessment scores.

Building off this success, Character Playbook expanded to more schools along with the 2017 NFL season launch of Character Playbook LIVE - part of a league-wide initiative to engage more students in the important conversation of why character matters.  This new virtual classroom experience, hosted by NFL clubs and local United Ways, allows NFL players to virtually join multiple schools in their classrooms and connect lessons taught in Character Playbook modules to life inside and outside of football.  To date in the 2017-18 school year, Character Playbook has reached more schools and students than the entire 2016-17 school year.  More than 141,000 students have been trained in 1,399 schools nationwide during Year 2 of the program.

Character Education: Additional Areas of Support 

In addition to the InSideOut Initiative and the NFL/United Way Character Playbook program, the NFL Foundation supports other character education programs via NFL club foundations and national nonprofits to help positively impact youngsters across the country. 

The Super Bowl High School Honor Roll program recognizes the schools and communities that have contributed to Super Bowl history.  The NFL Foundation has invested more than $1 million toward the program to help the leaders who play a big part in building the game of football and the character of its future players: the high school coaches.  More than 2,500 high schools have received THE INSIDEOUT COACHING CHARACTER KIT, a special character education curriculum created by InSideOut Initiative founders Joe Ehrmann and Jody Redman.  The curriculum is built on a simple premise: to be a better coach, you have to be a better you.