Not all kids are the ‘sporty’ kind, and I feel that a lot are put off by the way that school PE lessons are focused, in the most part, on team sports; the standard Rugby, Football and Cricket for the boys, and Netball, Hockey and Rounders for the girls. Yes in this day and age it is often still separated like this, at least from what my middle school age children tell me anyway, of course there is, and always has been a bit more variety, but it’s the regular norm, the ‘staple of the national curriculum’, and it can be very off-putting for some children. This then ingrains a mind-set later in life that they hate exercise, or are no good at sports, and can be a very hard fear to overcome – sound familiar? I’m sure it does to many people.
I have two children at Middle School, one very sporty, won coaches play of the year for his rugby team last season, and the other completely the opposite, will do anything he can to ‘forget’ his PE kit or get out of sports day. However, they both have grown up within a gym and fitness environment, with me owning a gym for most of their lives, and both enjoy training in the gym, joining in with the kid’s circuit classes we run, and are members of our Junior Powerlifting Club.
I asked my oldest, the non-sporty one, what it is he feels differentiates the training he does at the gym, which he enjoys, and his deep loathing for school PE lessons, as he is not the only kid that I have come across that feels similar to himself, and why we are so passionate about helping kids, especially the ‘non-sporty’ ones to actually fins a love for fitness that is not taught in schools; this is what he wrote:
Sport – I don’t like sport because there are too many people in groups/teams, people overreacting, and faking injuries. It is repetitive and boring, and people get angry or annoyed at you if you do something wrong.
Exercise – I like exercise because you can do it by yourself or in a group, but no one cares if you make a mistake, you just get corrected by the trainer to learn to do it correctly. It is fun and interesting, there are lots of things you can do, you could compete, or just do it for fun to get fitter and/or stronger, there is much more variety. “– Ashdon Age 12.
I think Ashdon hits the nail on the head here, sport, especially Football which is so prevalent in schools, has lost the element of friendly competition and a person celebrating their own achievements and successes, which he and I feel is a great shame, its not that he dislikes physical activity, but he, as are many people, more interested in learning the techniques and personally progressing – he often says to me, “I wish you could come and teach us powerlifting or circuits for PE lessons”.
I am no way having a dig at the team sports mentioned, as I was one of those kids that was good at them, on every sports team going, never the last to be picked for a team and thrived in anything and everything sports related at school, I love sport of all kinds and it all has its place, it’s just that the way it is presented to children, in the most part, is very one track, and it loses the interest of, what could be, some great little athlete, and more so, leads to a huge amount of inactivity in childhood and then laying a similar path into adulthood.
One thing I always tell people about sports like Powerlifting, or Strongman, or even just for people that want to training in a gym like Champion Strength & Conditioning, is that in these environments it doesn’t matter what you lift, or how fast you can do an exercise, what matters is progress, and that is always celebrated by all, whether that be 30kg or 300kg, its just as important. And I think it is this ethos that is what appeals to kids like Ashdon, and I hope we can continue to inspire more kids to find enjoyment in exercise.