I was listening to Radio 5 Live last week and was very interested to catch a discussion about getting young people involved in sport. Their focus was on teenagers, primarily girls of course, as this seems to be an incredibly difficult group to engage in physical activity. The group in the studio and those calling in all offered various reasons why sport was unpopular in particular at school; things like no showers or at least not time to use the showers, being quite key or a general discomfort of teenagers having to change in front of each other.
But additionally there was agreement that if you did not know how to play a game such as netball or hockey by the time you got to secondary school you would be so far behind that it was difficult to get involved. Teachers and coaches are reluctant to go over the basics with teenagers and would rather focus on those with some skill to play the game while leaving everybody else on the sidelines. Equally it’s very difficult to get involved with a club as a teenager with no knowledge of the game and possibly limited balls skills.
The winds of change are coming: firstly girls are definitely being shown some fabulous role models. Women’s sport is beginning to see the spotlight, the England women’s Rugby team won the team award at the BBC’s Sports Personality awards this year, and Ireland’s Stephanie Roche has been shortlisted for Fifa’s goal of the year – the footage of the goal is on a amateur camera and the stadium is empty but nevertheless it is on the shortlist because it is amazing!
Secondly parents are beginning to understand that in order to have a healthy lifestyle fitness must be part of it and it is the same for boys and girls. So more parents are encouraging their youngsters, and this does not have a lower age limit, to pick up a ball, run around the garden or park and to generally get active.
As the discussion on Radio 5 drew to a conclusion there was unanimous agreement that if boys and girls are encouraged at a young age to develop good hand eye co ordination and to move their body so that it remains fit they will be very well set up to take on any sport they wish at any point in their life. Most kids with good co ordination will be able to pick up games at any stage in school. People forget that rules are a mystery to most children under the age of seven years, children can only cope with learning how to catch and move at the same time before this age. So don’t get hung up on whether your child is playing football for Chelsea before they have left Infant school, give them the general ball and racket skills and they will be set to take up the sporting opportunities as they come along.