WEEKENDER: We should celebrate sporty youngsters

South Wales Argus: There off. The National Trust Easter egg hunt at Tredegar House, Newport. L-R Isla Williams 8  Carys Salter 9 and Joe Salter 7  (7859636) There off. The National Trust Easter egg hunt at Tredegar House, Newport. L-R Isla Williams 8 Carys Salter 9 and Joe Salter 7 (7859636)

CYNICS among us will be saying that with Andy Murray crashing out of Wimbledon, it is a good job it is a World Cup finals year, to provide a boost in the battle to get children out and playing sport.

Rather than as sporting occasions to enjoy in themselves, major events such as Wimbledon, the World Cup, or an Olympics, are seen increasingly as opportunities to spur on our allegedly indolent youth to abandon their games consoles and get healthier and fitter.

That connection is to an extent a natural one, as the annual phenomenon of busier tennis clubs in the weeks during and shortly after Wimbledon demonstrates.

Athletics clubs appear to have been busier in the couple of years since the London Olympics, and cycling appears to have enjoyed a considerable ‘bounce’ since the heroics of Team GB during the same games.

Still, barely a week goes by without a story appearing somewhere, this newspaper included, in which someone voices concerns about young people not doing enough exercise, not being healthy or fit enough.

I have on occasion, written them.

And it would be easy in this context to imagine a nation of slovenly youth, feet draped over the worn arms of sofas, guzzling pop and crisps – an army of them scratching their bellies, burping, and frying their brains with a dangerous cocktail of daytime TV programmes.

Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that you do not have to look too far or too long to discover examples of these young folk.

But this grim scenario is one that conveniently omits to mention that there are countless thousands of young people, from very young children to late-teens, who do spend considerable amounts of time pursuing sporting interests, either officially, through clubs, or unofficially, on our recreation grounds and parkland.

I don’t wish to play down the dangers of obesity, and all the other potential problems that can arise in part as a consequence of sedentary lifestyles.

But there is another, far more active aspect of young people’s lives that deserves to be celebrated, and perhaps used as an example to spur on others.

It is an inevitable product of our celebrity culture that big sporting names are used to promote healthy, active lifestyles.

But surely it is worth considering that a great number of the young people we want to encourage to get more active, might be inspired as much as by their contemporaries than by their global sporting heroes.

It is fine to have national or global sporting magnificence to admire and aspire to, but more realistic examples of sporting excellence, or even plain old health and fitness, are likely to exist closer to home.

And again, it is all about balance.

I loved sport and being active when I was growing up – athletics at school in the summer, football in winter when we coped with pitches the youth of today would not even consider playing on, and anyway teachers and clubs would not now let them anywhere near.

Cricket, rugby – albeit only in school – cycling miles to go swimming, I pursued these activities for years.

But I also remember spending hours watching television, or just chatting with my friends.

At this point, I’m sorry if I suddenly come over as all pipe-and-slippers, but “when I were a lad” we did not have games consoles, an annual Fifa or Pro Evolution Soccer, or kill-fest entertainments like Call Of Duty, phenomena that today are regularly cited as contributors to youngsters’ increasingly slothful lifestyles.

But believe me, we also had a considerable capacity for being busy doing nothing.

Also increasingly peddled these days is the tool of studying school class photos from 30, 40 or more years ago, and those of more recent times, and comparing how few overweight children there were then, against now.

It is all a bit basic and negative.

Is it too much to ask that every now and then – and certainly more often than we do at the moment – we celebrate the sporting efforts of the children who are out there, expending their energy in positive ways?

I stress their sporting efforts, as much as their achievements.

The latter suggests they need to attain some honour as a result of their pursuit of a sport they enjoy, but really it should be more about doing their best.

They are out there, you really do not have to look too hard – and it is inspiring to watch them in action.

Comments (3)

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2:10pm Sat 5 Jul 14

Mr Angry says...

The problem lies with Games Teachers in secondary schools, they are nothing more than bullies and thugs
The problem lies with Games Teachers in secondary schools, they are nothing more than bullies and thugs Mr Angry
  • Score: 6

5:09pm Sat 5 Jul 14

Floppy backed says...

PE in state school is a complete joke! Why cant children do sport after school like they do in private schools? In my sons junior school they dont seem to do anything and when they do they are not pushed or allowed to exert themselves in anyway.

Not that it is up to schools to make sure children get the exercise but if we are to pluck out talent for those who dont have the opportunity then this is the only answer.

Sadly, its the H&S culture combined with parents wanting to sue or complain at any opportunity.

I am lucky with my children they are out most of the time, swim and athletics with loads of cycling and only very young.

As for using the "overweight culture" its a fact that its 70% diet 30% exercise and as much as you exercise these fatties until the parents adjust their diet to suit their calorie needs. Look at the contents of their packed lunch - crisps, chocolate, breads - all high refined carbs, bad fats, sugars - until we break this culture of food just to fill them up instead of feeding their nutritional needs then we have a serious health problem in the country which is going to have a massive knock on effect to the NHS.
PE in state school is a complete joke! Why cant children do sport after school like they do in private schools? In my sons junior school they dont seem to do anything and when they do they are not pushed or allowed to exert themselves in anyway. Not that it is up to schools to make sure children get the exercise but if we are to pluck out talent for those who dont have the opportunity then this is the only answer. Sadly, its the H&S culture combined with parents wanting to sue or complain at any opportunity. I am lucky with my children they are out most of the time, swim and athletics with loads of cycling and only very young. As for using the "overweight culture" its a fact that its 70% diet 30% exercise and as much as you exercise these fatties until the parents adjust their diet to suit their calorie needs. Look at the contents of their packed lunch - crisps, chocolate, breads - all high refined carbs, bad fats, sugars - until we break this culture of food just to fill them up instead of feeding their nutritional needs then we have a serious health problem in the country which is going to have a massive knock on effect to the NHS. Floppy backed
  • Score: 1

11:56am Sun 6 Jul 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

I hated sport at school.

I was always the last to be picked for a team (i.e. invariably following a long, heated discussion between either side about who wasn't going to have me lol:).

School sport was nothing but an exercise in humiliation, bullying - and for a transgendered girl thrown in with a group of much bigger boys - actually quite physically dangerous(!) Moreover, as one of the posters above has pointed out, back in the day games teachers often had a reputation for being bullies themselves, together with their homophobic, transphobic and pathetically sexist, macho fantasist medallion man sense of entitlement.

Fortunately, in the end it finally clicked with them that they couldn't smash a square peg into a round hole, and I (together with the other 'lost causes') were relegated to spend most of our sporting time posted out of harm's way to the furthest reaches of the playing field - token members of the team only to the extent that we were dressed in the same school colours - the extent of our 'team contributions' and physical activities restricted to little more than jumping up and down occasionally when one of the boys scored but more usually when we got cold (pretty much like some sort of discarded cheerleader, really:)

Rather than school sports teaching kids qualities like fair play, team spirit and giving them confidence, they were far more likely to teach unscrupulous competitiveness, might over right and rather than empower kid to believe in themselves and build up their confidence, left those of us who were not 'sporty' feeling even more marginalised and with low self-esteem.

Hopefully though, physical education is more enlightened today.
I hated sport at school. I was always the last to be picked for a team (i.e. invariably following a long, heated discussion between either side about who wasn't going to have me lol:). School sport was nothing but an exercise in humiliation, bullying - and for a transgendered girl thrown in with a group of much bigger boys - actually quite physically dangerous(!) Moreover, as one of the posters above has pointed out, back in the day games teachers often had a reputation for being bullies themselves, together with their homophobic, transphobic and pathetically sexist, macho fantasist medallion man sense of entitlement. Fortunately, in the end it finally clicked with them that they couldn't smash a square peg into a round hole, and I (together with the other 'lost causes') were relegated to spend most of our sporting time posted out of harm's way to the furthest reaches of the playing field - token members of the team only to the extent that we were dressed in the same school colours - the extent of our 'team contributions' and physical activities restricted to little more than jumping up and down occasionally when one of the boys scored but more usually when we got cold (pretty much like some sort of discarded cheerleader, really:) Rather than school sports teaching kids qualities like fair play, team spirit and giving them confidence, they were far more likely to teach unscrupulous competitiveness, might over right and rather than empower kid to believe in themselves and build up their confidence, left those of us who were not 'sporty' feeling even more marginalised and with low self-esteem. Hopefully though, physical education is more enlightened today. Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 1

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