We have lots of sporty kids in our school and I expect you have lots of sporty kids in yours too. Although I moan about how said sporty kids tend to miss English lessons with all their school sports tournaments and that many of these children could really do with extra help with writing rather than less, it also occurred to me recently that the health of an entire generation of young children is being dramatically changed for the better and it is all down to parents who volunteer in grass roots football, rugby and cricket (and probably one or two more sports). Actually, I’ll go even further; I think that if it weren’t for grassroots football etc, our kids, particularly the males, would be really fat and unhealthy.
You see, in primary schools, children rarely get their heart rate up in a PE lesson. Typically, they will have two lessons a week and the expectation that skills will be continuously taught then crowds out opportunities to let children run 3 laps of the field (if the field hasn’t been sold off to a housing developer) as fast as possible. Tennis lessons really stand out as a complete farce; 30 children just end up practising hitting the ball in pairs in a 1m sq space and realistically will never play a proper game because there isn’t enough room. If we look at break times and lunch times, both of which are under constant pressure to be reduced, you will find limited opportunities for older children to really let rip with a bit of running due to fears that the infants will get hurt. What about after school clubs? Again, given that primary teachers are usually amateurs in any particular sport combined with schools’ insistence on providing only free clubs run by teachers, there will also be limited opportunities to develop children’s basic health and fitness during those times.
It amuses me that the PE co-ordinator will be busy arranging all sorts of inter-school tournaments and these sporty children will be winning trophies for the school, yet all the hard work has been done by parents outside of the school. These parents will be giving up their Saturdays and Sundays to ferry children to the playing fields and stand there in the driving rain, and a small minority of them will be coaching and managing little clubs on a voluntary basis, dealing with the increasingly poor behaviour of children who, in the classroom, expect lessons to be fun and easy with the teacher following rather than leading. Those children who spend their weekends and some of the weekday evenings training for their beloved sport are learning so much more too:
- Competition is healthy and normal (nothing to be ashamed of)
- Not everyone will win prizes in life
- Hard work is what it takes if you want to be good at something
- Respect for older, wiser experts
- Understanding that rules are rules, not opportunities for negotiation
- Understanding that real societies need structure and good leadership in addition to teamwork
I think it’s really important for these parents to know that at least some of us teachers really appreciate what they do because these sporty children also drive up the standard of sportsmanship in school PE lessons; having children who can actually run for more than 5 minutes without needing a sit down, children who are eager to win and who have great techniques that the other children can try to emulate massively improves PE lessons for all.
So, it’s a big thank you to Football Dads.
Who’s with me?