by Warren Heggarty
It is important that children develop an interest in physical activity and sport as early as possible. The benefits; physical, social and mental, are all well-documented. Physical activity can provide a pathway to friendship and even provide protection from bullying. These three snapshots show that three people are vitally important to success: The students, the teachers and the parents.
“P.E. marginalised”, says sports boss
The once ‘bedrock position of Physical Education (PE) in Australian schools has been slowly eroded over the past few decades. Australian Sports Commission chairman John Wylie told a business conference that PE and sport has been marginalised particularly ‘in government school curricula.’ To make matters worse, ‘Anyone with children knows the challenges that technology and iPhones present’ he told an Asialink business dinner which was looking at opportunities for Australia to move into Asia’s rising sport market. (Legrand & Akerman, 2018)
Mark McAllion, director of Maribyrnong College sports academy told The Australian that the emphasis on PE had slipped in crowded school curriculums. Schools had an important role to play in developing a child’s love of sport, athletic skills and confidence. ‘If those things happen [at school] there’s a chance that kids will continue to participate.’
John Wylie cited a lack of teachers ‘interested… in getting sweaty’ and he warned against Australia becoming complacent or indifferent about its sporting heritage. Sport is much more than just ‘getting sweaty’ though. It’s good for society. And teachers are not the only people who need to be involved.
Netball shoots a goal for school
If education can lead us to sport, then it is also true that sport can lead us to education. In some indigenous communities, school attendance has been a problem that threatens to further entrench disadvantage.
According to Shari Comeagain, a young indigenous netballer form the isolated town of Mullewa in Western Australia ‘when [young people] are sitting around not doing things, it triggers them to do things they’re not supposed to do.’ (George, 2017)
Shari was part of ‘Shooting Stars,’ a pioneering program that used netball to reconnect indigenous girls in regional communities to education. She said she finds school ‘more interesting to engage with‘ because of the program which had caused a general ten per cent rise in school attendance.
According to the Mullewa District High School Newsletter of August 2018, Shari Comeagain was one of a goodly number of young people who had 100 per cent attendance! ‘Missing School = Missing Out’ the newsletter tells us. Shari intends to start university in 2019. (Mullewa DHS, 2018)
Bullying isn’t sporting
Some of us have bad memories of sport because of bullying, but avoiding sport robs children of a very effective protection against bullying. This is because participation in sport is a great way to make friends and making friends is one of the keys to dealing with bullies!
Resilience Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) is a new program devised by Dr Karyn Healy of the University of Queensland Parenting and Family Support Centre. Unlike a lot of anti-bullying programs, it focuses more on individual students and their parents.
“We know from decades of research,” said Dr Healy, “that what parents do makes a difference to children.” (Ironside, 2018) Parents can support kids in developing good relationships, for example by learning how to solve problems with their brothers and sisters. Parents are heavily involved in the program, attending all of the eight sessions, four with their children. Children are taught social and emotional skills for developing good relationships with peers and handling difficult situations like conflict. (Healy & Sanders, 2013)
Sport is also a way of “character building” where children learn about both winning and losing with grace, and about teamwork in the best sense of the word.
George, E. (2017, August 1). Sport bounceds boredom introduces indigenous kids to education . The Australian .
Healy, K., & Sanders, M. (1913). Brief Report of Trial of Resistance Triple P. Parenting and Family Support Centre, University of Queenlsand. Retrieved from https://exp.psy.uq.edu.au/resiliencetriplep/pdf/report_brief.pdf
Ironside, R. (2018 , March 16). Forming friendships the key to dealing with bullies. The Australian.
Legrand, C., & Akerman, P. (2018, February 22). Physical neglect bad for kids and business. The Australian.
Mullewa DHS. (2018, August 24). School Priority: Attendance. Mullewa District High Newsletter , p. 2. Retrieved from http://www.mullewadhs.wa.edu.au/Profiles/mullewadhs_3/Assets/ClientData/Newsletters/2018_Newsletter_Term_3_Week_7.pdf