In this Q&A, former Coach Alison Vaux-Bjerke reflects on her Playworks experience and her journey into a career in youth sports and health initiatives.
Q: What position did you hold at Playworks, where, and for how long?
A: I was an AmeriCorps Program Coordinator for one year (2011-12) and a Program Associate for two years (2012-2014)
Q: What has been your career trajectory since Playworks? How does that trajectory align with what you are passionate about as an individual?
A: I joined Playworks right after grad school and left after 3 years to teach health and wellness classes at my alma mater and other DC-area universities. My degree was in physical activity and public health, so when a fellowship with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services came my way, I jumped! That has turned into a fulltime position and I’ve been with HHS for almost 8.5 years. I was brought on to work on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and my Playworks experience and connections really came in handy when we were tasked with developing the National Youth Sports Strategy!
Q: How did your experience at Playworks help set you up for success in that trajectory?
A: I believe my experience in the nonprofit and direct service world is a value I bring to the policy development world. I can speak from my experience on the ground and have been able to successfully envision and facilitate more policy implementation activities to engage with those affected by the physical activity policies I helped craft.
Q: What did you take from your time at Playworks that you carried throughout your career?
A: Something that I found so valuable is how even with the same training and situation, individuals can implement programming or complete deliverables in such different ways that all result in success. I have tried to keep that in mind throughout my career to help me rein in my tendency to want things done my way.
Q: How does play show up for you in your life today? In your work?
A: I have a preschooler, so play is a big part of my life right now. I have used the prompt of “how are you high fiving yourself today” as a regular point of connection with my colleagues. And we have had some office field days recently so I’ve been able to introduce people to some of my favorite Playworks games like Switch.
Q: What would you say to someone considering working at Playworks?
A: Getting in touch with your playful side and supporting others in that is something that you won’t regret. I met incredible people, have hilarious stories, and learned how much play really can make an impact.
Read more from Alison in our article The Significance of Play in Children’s Mental Health
Alison Vaux-Bjerke, MPH, MCHES provides physical activity subject matter expertise to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). Her projects at ODPHP have included the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Science Board; and the National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS). Ms. Vaux-Bjerke brings expertise in physical activity and youth sports programming and health education to her current position. She strives to create opportunities to take the policies off the page, which has manifested in community workshops centered on connecting youth sports stakeholders to each other and the NYSS.
Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed in this piece by Ms. Vaux-Bjerke are reflective of her own opinions and not necessarily those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.