A sporting life is no kids’ play

May 30, 2014 by Michelle Favero
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Sydney’s Emanuel School is showing positive results in its sports program in contrast to poor results on children’s physical activities elsewhere.  

Ethan Hirschowitz

Ethan Hirschowitz

A recent report by Active Healthy Kids Australia entitled Is Sport Enough? 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children & Young People has created a media storm and raised many valid questions about the role of organised sport in children’s lives. The Report reaches worrying conclusions regarding the activity levels of children and their obvious repercussions for mental, physical and social wellbeing.

According to the Is Sport Enough report, Australia scores a woeful ‘D-’ for overall activity levels. They found that 80% of 5-17 year olds do not achieve the one hour per day of physical activity recommended.

Emanuel School’s E-Active program aims to encourage more children to be active more often by offering a diverse range of activities that appeal not only to competitive sport-loving students, but also those who might not identify themselves as ‘sporty’.

The program, which now has over 200 High School students participating, focuses on developing the whole child, on being active and incorporating movement into everyday life.

Activity options this year have included paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing, parkour, yoga, pilates, and dance in addition to traditional sports of touch football, rugby, netball, basketball and tennis. In Term 3 students will be offered the opportunity to participate in trampolining, indoor skiing, badminton and boxing fitness classes, amongst others. By making sport fun and accessible to all, the program has been successful in enticing those less sporty students and ‘screen addicts’ to get onboard.

Australia scored a low ‘D’ for ‘active transportation’ which refers to those activities such as walking or cycling instead of driving or running instead of public transport.

The School’s Personal Development, Health and Physical Education programs place a great value on students building their fitness through ‘active transportation’ to their PE lessons. Many students no longer take the school bus, but walk, jog or run to their sporting activities. Year 9 and 10 students are encouraged to run 6km each week in addition to their regular physical activities – often to the Beach to take part in school sports such as surfing, beach touch football or beach volleyball.

Students are also encouraged to build a strong connection with their fitness and wellbeing by keeping a weekly journal of the activities that they have been doing. This provides them with a visual reminder and log to track their progress.

Emanuel School Principal, Anne Hastings, who recently completed the 50km Coast to Coast Trek, said,”Emanuel School’s motto is ‘Mind, Spirit, Being’ – we strongly believe that these three concepts are intricately linked. By providing both competitive and non-competitive sporting options for our students we are helping to encourage children to take responsibility for their physical wellbeing which has a positive flow-on effect to all other areas of their lives.

According to the Is Sport Enough? Report, and as supported by educators and parents, children are spending a disproportionate time in front of screens. Our E-Active and other sporting programs actively encourage a focus away from technology, towards an active lifestyle and mindset. I am very pleased that our PDHPE Deprtment has developed the E-Active program and for the positive outcomes this has created”.

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