Cable sports network ESPN has announced it will distribute free copies of its award-winning SportsFigures educational series to all 18,000 public and private high schools in the United States.

The initiative, part of Cable in the Classroom’s 10th anniversary celebration, was announced in late March by ESPN President George Bodenheimer and Infoseek President and CEO Harry Motro. Infoseek’s Go Network is sponsoring the giveaway and will also launch concurrent resources on its web site to give students and educators quick access to the SportsFigure site and a wealth of other educational tools on the internet.

For the giveaway, ESPN has packaged all seven of the 1998-99 episodes together along with a corresponding lesson plan and student activity sheets for teachers. Additional copies of the videos and lesson plans are available through

In the series, students learn valuable math and physics lessons from today’s top athletes. In one program, NFL running back Napoleon Kaufman teaches students about conservation of momentum and force vectors. In another, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter expounds on the speed of sound and speed of light. Other athletes appearing in this year’s series include Nascar driver Jeff Gordon and professional golfer Brad Faxon.

The series, which premiered in the fall of 1995, is produced by Highland Productions in cooperation with ESPN2. The show airs on ESPN2 on Mondays at 5:30 a.m. and is designed as a teaching tool to be taped by high school teachers.

SportsFigures is endorsed by national math organization Mu Alpha Theta and has been recognized with a variety of awards since it began production. In 1996, the program received a Beacon Award for Customer Relations from the Cable Television Public Affairs Association, and in each of the following two years was recognized with the organization’s Parents’ Choice Award.

Past athlete appearances on the show include Tiger Woods, Ruthie Bolton-Holifield, Dan O’Brien, and Steve Young.

“I think it’s a spectacular opportunity for young kids to learn,” commented San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young. “If we can interest kids in some of the basic skills of math, science, and other basic fundamental skills in the educational process through sports, then I think it’s a spectacular opportunity.”

More information is available on the SportsFigures web site. ESPN said it will be enhancing the SportsFigures web site in the coming months, adding weekly contests and areas for teacher and student feedback.

Cable in the Classroom

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Cable in the Classroom is a non-profit service of the cable industry. The organization is supported by some 41 cable networks and over 8,500 local cable companies. The local cable companies provide free connection to schools, while the networks offer more than 540 hours per month of commercial-free educational programming.

Member networks include A&E, CNN, Discovery, and Nickelodeon. The networks typically set aside a certain portion of their on-air schedule to show commercial-free educational programs. The programs, which often air in the early morning hours, are designed to be taped by teachers and used when the instructor feels they are most appropriate. The programs are copyright-cleared for a minimum of one year to allow schools to build their own video libraries.

On top of its cable connection and programming initiatives, Cable in the Classroom also provides teacher training workshops to help teachers use cable resources effectively.

Last fall, the organization launched an internet training initiative after a study it conducted found that teachers were clamoring for a more effective way to use the internet in the classroom, said Peter Dirr, director of Cable in the Classroom’s Professional Development Institute.

As part of the internet training initiative, Cable in the Classroom recently teamed with District Cablevision in the nation’s capital to establish a teacher training center for the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Cable in the Classroom

ESPN SportsFigures

Infoseek Go Network