0 Sport for all, or just the elite?

DaveSaltman09It's the current debate, the Olympics still fresh in many people's minds, what sporting legacy will be left behind? There has been a fascinating thread on the PC message boards about the provision of sport within both state and private schools. But, what should we be doing to nurture the next generation of sportsmen and women?

I agree with the many comments about investing in schools and getting competitive sport back on the school curriculum. For too long now non-competitive sport has been encouraged, so as not to see the fat kid in the corner get ridiculed. The trouble is that, now, we have half a class of fat kids, who are lazy and unable and/or unwilling to compete.

Competition is healthy. Why do the same people who extol Darwin and his theory on the survival of the fittest, fail then to get to grips with an increasingly unhealthy society and successive generations of idle kids?

Governments have increased the costs of running schools, along with the current trends of target setting, based around the core academic subjects (maths, english, sciences), with little time allocated for physical education.

We need to address the balance and bring back opportunities for pupils to achieve recognition in a sporting activity.

I always enjoyed participating in sport when I was at school, and was able to represent my school at local and county levels; we were always encouraged to be the best by our teachers.

We need to see a massive change in the school programme to include more physical activities. We need to bring back the PE teacher and dedicate five hours a week to teaching and giving pupils the opportunity to shine in sport (they are not all academic achievers). In America, many kids earn scholarships to university having excelled in sport. Perhaps we should follow this example.

The opportunity for young people to get involved in sport should start in Primary schools, with the Government setting aside ring fenced budgets to deliver sports activities in all Primary schools.

The aim should be to introduce pupils to a variety of sports and ensure they remain active, interested and able to compete against themselves and other schools, and eventually progress to playing sport at local sports clubs.

The benefits will be enormous in terms of learning new skills, such as hand-eye coordination, increasing fitness levels and, above all, giving them a sense of wellbeing.
For this policy to work, the Government will have to enable the schools to invest in their playing surfaces and provide PE staff able to deliver several hours of sport a week for every child.

Healthy competition between pupils is the key to enrichment; the skills learned and taken on board whilst participating in sport are essential attributes for pupil development.

Having run Pitchcare for over a decade, we get to see many schools, and the ones that stand out are the ones that have invested in their pitches, providing excellently presented sports surfaces that are fit for purpose and encourage the pupils to perform.

However, it is no good providing these pitches if we have not got the infrastructure in terms of having PE /sports teachers who can inspire their pupils to take part and perform.

The changes in Primary schools should transcend into the secondary schools system.

All the above said and done, we shouldn't understate the success of our athletes at the London 2012 Olympics. Great Britain finished third in the world, and only behind the USA and China, countries with populations 10x and 50x greater than ours. Imagine how good our sporting stars would be, if we gave sport more emphasis again. Imagine the knock on economic effect if we were a nation of healthy people with healthy minds.

Dave Saltman

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