We all know that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers. But even so, we were shocked to see Liz Jones in the Daily Mail state that sport is no good for young people and that, “Sport in school is the worst thing you can possibly inflict on children…”
Liz’s notions apparently stem from a belief that not excelling at sport alienates children, that sport makes you unattractive and, strangest of all, that sport is not good for you. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder but her other claims show a dangerous lack of understanding.
At Aspire, our Sports Development team have been working closely with schools from across Harrow to make sure their school sports are fully inclusive. And more than that, we’ve been able to introduce sports most schools have previously been unable to offer; wheelchair basketball, blind football and seated volleyball, for example, have joined the more regularly seen sports like football and tennis. Far from alienating anyone – whether because they are the only disabled pupil in class or because they lack sporting prowess in a particular field – our sessions are designed on the basis that everyone is involved. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, not just from the schools but from the pupils and their parents too. We’ll be taking our sessions to more schools in the new term, and our sports clubs at the Aspire National Training Centre follow the same principles too.
And whilst Liz might be convinced that regular activity is not be good for you, her comments came a day before Cancer Research’s findings that 40% of cancers are caused by lifestyle choices, with a lack of physical activity a key contributor. Meanwhile, it’s hard not to notice the regular reports that tell us that child obesity in the UK is growing at an alarming rate, most of which recommend increasing participation in sport and physical activity alongside maintaining a healthy diet.
So whilst Liz just shrugs her shoulders at the news that “the Government has just scrapped its plan to improve the nation’s fitness levels as a legacy of the 2012 Olympics because the number taking part in sport at a grass-roots level has slipped, and the target of getting two million more people active by 2013 is now hopelessly out of reach” it just makes us more determined than ever to make a difference.
Sport done badly may have some of the effects that Liz is so worried about. But sport done well, in an inclusive environment, opens up opportunities and has immeasurable benefits. Perhaps Liz would like to come along to Aspire and try to banish some of those demons born on the hockey field?