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Too many exams, too little sport: experts discuss barriers to participation

When the chief starter at the London Olympics agreed to fire his pistol to start the races at a school sports day, parents thought it was a wonderful treat for their children. Children today are 'too busy' for sport, experts have argued. Photo: Caters
4:06PM BST 09 Aug 2012
:: Lack of understanding of sports by teachers
Not every PE teacher understands every sport. Some sports, such as hockey, may appear too complicated to teachers, who are consequently deterred from teaching them, according to England Hockey.
“Hockey is sometimes seen as a technical sport because of all the rules,” Holly Woodford, the organisation’s development director, said.
“People do not always understand why the umpire’s blowing the whistle when they watch it. We have tried to make it easier for teachers to teach hockey in schools by launching packages to explain the game to them.”
Only half of all secondary schools teach the sport, partly due to limited budgets, she said.
It is cheaper to buy one football for 30 pupils than 30 hockey sticks.
But there is also the problem of teachers lacking the confidence to teach it.
“Teachers have particular sport specialisms and will tend to teach that sport first,” said Ms Woodford.
“If they don’t specialise in hockey they are less likely to teach it.”
:: Exam culture in schools
The exam culture in schools has been heavily criticised.
Pupils must constantly revise for tests, while teachers become excessively focused on exam results, it is argued.
And teachers’ priorities are absorbed by their pupils, one expert said.
Professor Jim McKenna, from the Carnegie Faculty of Sport & Education at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: “One of the biggest barriers is school itself – what teachers encourage and what kids gather school is all about.
“If they think it’s all about exams and the important exam subjects, then the sport side of things doesn’t appear totally aligned with that.
“Teachers are rewarded for exam performance and not for encouraging children in sport.”
Continuous assessment means constant studying for exams, which “eats into spare time”, he said.
:: Lack of time
No-one becomes an Olympic athlete overnight. It takes hours and hours of quality practice.
But there are so many other things to occupy children’s time in modern society, says Les Howie, the Football Association’s head of grassroots coaching.
“It’s all about finding time, and finding people to give up their time,” he said.
“When children come home from school at the end of the day, they have homework to do. There’s the internet, the PlayStation, the Xbox.
“My kids are coming home with two three pieces of homework a night.
“When do you give children a chance to be children, to play and learn and socialise through sport?”
He warned of the danger of letting children become solely focused on academic work at the expense of everything else.
Science and maths were important, he stressed, but children also needed to be given the time to develop at other activities.
Adults, meanwhile, were working long hours and were left with little time to spare to volunteer in children’s sports.
“We need to take a step back in our busy lives and say ‘you know what? We value sport’”, Mr Howie said.
:: Lack of choice
Many children are raised on a limited diet of school sport.
In the winter, they are offered football and rugby, and in the summer, tennis and cricket.
But if a wider range of sports was on offer, more pupils might become inspired to pursue them, argued Dr Matthew Capehorn of the National Obesity Forum,
“There’s not enough choice,” he said. “When you look at how many different sports are available and how many are represented at the Olympics, these often aren’t being taught to children.
“And those who aren’t from privileged backgrounds can’t go to private clubs to learn them out of school.”
Lack of funding was most likely the reason behind the limited range of sports on offer in some schools, he suggested.
With more staff, more equipment and more money, they could do more, he said.
More focus should also be placed on finding out what sport each child enjoys, he argued.
“Once you’ve got their interest, they’re more likely to carry it on,” he said.

Norwich care home boxing club pleased as punch to welcome back victorious Zaiphan Morris

PUBLISHED: 10:17 30 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:19 30 May 2017
Norfolk amateur boxer, Zaiphan Morris, trains Mark Hobson, a resident at John Grooms Court for adults with physical and learning difficulties. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY
Copyright: Archant 2017
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And residents at Livability John Grooms Court were pleased as punch when city boxer Zaiphan Morris, fresh from the first belt of his career, returned to give them some further tips.
The 27-bed home for adults with physical disabilities started up the boxing club last year as a way to keep the residents, who use wheelchairs, active.
Many of the residents at the Sprowston Road care home pull on the gloves each fortnight and get special training in the sport.
Experts are on hand to help them, with sessions run by personal trainer Sharon Plummer, from Norwich Fitness Club.
Super featherweight boxer Mr Morris visited the home in December and pledged, whether he won or lost his battle for the International Classic Challenge belt, he would return to see how they were getting on.
Mr Morris, 32, beat Latvian Aleksandrs Birkenbergs 79:75 to win his inaugural belt in front of a home crowd at The Halls in Norwich - so ,on his return, residents got to see his belt.
Mr Morris was also able to see the progress which the residents have made since his visit before Christmas.
Sue Hampson, care home manager, said: “Boxing can promote cardio vascular health, along with better hand eye co-ordination.
“It also helps with upper body strength which is important for our residents as it enables some to maintain independence with transferring from wheelchair to bed and so on.
“Boxing decreases stress, reduces frustration and improves the general wellbeing of our residents.
“It’s great to have Zaiphan with us.
“Some people might not consider boxing a sport that disabled people might participate in, but at Livability we want to challenge assumptions and tackle the restrictions that disabled people can face.
“We also run a ski club and two of our residents are participating in sponsored sky dives. If we can do it safely, we’ll pull out all the stops!”
For more information on the care home visit www.livability.org.uk/service/john-grooms-court-norwich

Has IPL killed the spirit of cricket as a sport? Experts debate at Zee JLF

Has the popular Indian Premier League commercialized the game of cricket? Has it killed the actual spirit of the game? Has it not given an impetus to budding cricketers? These were the questions raised during a session titled "Indian Cricket at the Crossroads" at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.
Decoding the pros and cons of the IPL series were James Astill, the author of The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India, You must Like Cricket? fame author Soumya Bhattacharya, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.
"IPL has definitely killed the spirit of the sport. It must have given platform to a few cricketers who would have come to limelight because of their performance during these matches but it has done more damage to the game," Soumya Bhattacharya said. "And how many young cricketers have sustained the recognition they had got during IPL matches? Why is it that politicians like to get involved in the game of cricket?" he added.
Tharoor, however, chose to differ from the opinion that IPL has had its side effects on the game.
"Cricket is uniquely Indian sport in its own way. I have always said that cricket is one such game which is celebrated by masses in India and was accidentally discovered by foreigners. Be it a 20-20 match, a test match or one day series...how does it matter, the game still remains the same," he said.
"Watching a test match is like reading a good novel and watching a T20 is like watching a sitcom. Whatever it is, the entertainment is still there!" Tharoor added. Tharoor, however, did not respond to a question on what interests the politicians in the country have to be involved in cricket.
Moderating the panel was Rajdeep Sardesai who said "cricket is the game where more small town people make it bigger in the sport rather than those training in fancy academies in the country. Exceptions are everywhere though!" "IPL has not only brought the sports' to the forefront, commercialisation to a damaging extent but it has drawn the sport parallel to the entertainment industry in a negative way," he opined.
James Astill, who has been critical in his book about how the sport is not untouched from corruption in the country, said "India has huge pool of talent..but there is a huge pool of population too. How many deserving cricketers make it to the national team? And IPL offers them small duration fame with nothing much to look forward too but the team owners' pockets remain happy!