Character Education

Former NFL player Joe Ehrmann 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, 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 third year, more than 1,200 schools helped 102,000 students in each NFL team market complete more than 350,000 hours of learing. This led to a 41% increase in student understanding of key social-emotional topics based on pre-and post-assessment scores.

Character Playbook continues to expand to more schools along with the launch of Character Playbook Live – part of a league-wide initiative to engage more students in the important conversation of why character matters. This 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. 

  • In 2016, the NFL Foundation awarded a grant to FUTURES WITHOUT VIOLENCE, a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals and communities to end violence against women and children around the world.  The grant has been used to implement FUTURES’ COACHING BOYS INTO MEN program in Hawaii with high school football players and coaches.  It teaches male student athletes about healthy relationship and character-building skills, respect for women and girls, and that violence never equals strength.  It also enhances the players’ ability to address issues of relationship abuse and sexual violence head on while instructing teams on what it takes to be successful in the game and in relationships on and off the field.
  • As part of its 2018 Pro Bowl community outreach initiatives, the NFL Foundation provided a grant to A CALL TO MEN, a nonprofit that educates men all over the world on healthy, respectful manhood.  The funding was used to bring A CALL TO MEN’s LIVERESPECT: Coaching Healthy & Respectful Manhood curriculum to the football program at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida.  LIVERESPECT offers coaches, educators, mentors and youth advocates the tools to decrease sexual assault, dating violence and bullying in schools and sports by promoting healthy, respectful manhood; decreasing language and actions that degrade women and girls and other marginalized groups; and challenging harmful cultural and social norms.

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.