Physical Activity

Being physically active is a Zuni tradition we honor through all our programs and spaces. From the beginning, we envisioned an active Zuni Pueblo, where Zuni youth have ample opportunities to engage in fun and meaningful physical activities. Our menu of physical activities outlined below show our progress toward this vision.

Sports Leagues

We believe that when youth sport is done well, it has the power to transform the lives of Native youth and unify our communities. ZYEP connects with over 500 local youth every year through basketball, soccer, and flag football leagues. These leagues help Zuni kids learn to play sports in a fun, challenging, and highly supportive environment. Our empowering approach consists of educating community coaches and parents prior to each season, so we can work together to bring out the best in every child. Using the game and our positions as positive role models, coaches, parents, and ZYEP staff help our sport league participants develop skills, habits, and attitudes that will have a lasting impact on their lives.


ZYEP launched a youth basketball league in 2011 and since our initial season, our basketball league has flourished. Today, we are able to connect more than 200 youth to 40 community coaches in a basketball league that celebrates Zuni youth and unites the entire community. Young people practice twice a week, learning lessons about the sport, good nutrition, and their Zuni language and kinship system. Our young players report improvements in basketball skills, health, and happiness — and parents report improvements in their children’s self-confidence, health, and happiness.


Prior to our first soccer camp in 2009, most Zuni youth never had an opportunity to kick a soccer ball, let alone play in an organized soccer league. After the camp, it was clear that the kids loved the game, so we quickly organized a youth soccer team that played in the nearby Gallup city league. Since then, we have established a community youth soccer league that allows hundreds of local youth to play the sport within their community. We also enroll six teams (ages 4-14) in the nearby Gallup soccer league annually. We are lucky to have fantastic volunteer coaches, parents, and community members who support our youth.

Flag Football

In fall 2016, ZYEP introduced a NFL Flag Football Youth League to Zuni youth. Approximately 160 Zuni boys and girls (ages 6-12) joined that season, and they practiced and played their games on dirt fields lined with flour. Since the start of the league, ZYEP has opened a full-size athletic turf field where the young players can run, catch, and play the game safely. Today, the league remains very popular, enrolling more than 160 youth per season, and it’s coached by a dedicated team of volunteers. Youth practice twice a week, learning lessons about the sport, good nutrition, and their Zuni language and kinship system. Over the course of the season, young players report, on average: making six new friends, meeting three caring adults, and learning six new Zuni words and phrases.

Running Medicine

Running Medicine (RM) is a family-centered program based on the belief that physical activity is a potent medicine for mind, body, and spirit. Running will always be an integral part of Zuni culture, making RM a natural fit for the community. Approximately 50 youth and many more community members of all ages participate in RM annually. Youth, elders, and everyone in between join together in this community running/walking program; everyone supports each other’s wellness. RM is held in the summer, fall, and spring seasons, and participants meet two to three times per week at local trails around the community.

In-School Physical Activity

ZYEP works closely with Zuni Public School District (ZPSD), our longstanding partner, to enhance the opportunities Zuni youth have to engage in physical activity before, during, and after the school day. With support from New Mexico’s Department of Health (NMDOH), ZYEP collaborates with the local elementary school to implement activities, provide resources, and place positive mentors in the school’s physical education classes for their 500+ students. Assessments of our in-school physical activity program show that we are helping students enjoy and apply more effort toward physical activity.

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