It’s a well-known fact that obesity is one of the main issues currently affecting our society, especially among children. A 2016 survey showed that a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese. Common sense tells us that this is caused by children eating too much and/or not getting enough exercise. Simply cutting down on in-between-meals snacks or even walking or cycling to school can have a significant impact on a child’s health and fitness. However, while the child is still young, it is the responsibility of parents to keep them in the right shape, and what better way to do that than to get them involved in the best exercise of all – sport.
What organisations out there are helping?
Grown men and women will tell you that some of the best times of their lives were spent running around a football pitch with their mates on a Sunday morning or darting up and down a swimming pool after school, and ultimately a lot of today’s youngsters are missing out. However, there are a number of organisations who fund and support sports clubs for children to play for – now it’s your turn to make these organisations’ work worthwhile.
Sport England, for example, are an organisation who aim to increase the number of people doing sport and activity – no matter their background, ability or age. They have a set investment programme until 2021 aimed at children from the age of five to increase their basic competence and enjoyment. There are also plans in place to create/improve facilities, increase the number of volunteers in grassroots sport and develop more local interests to ease accessibility to sport. Find out more about their Family Fund.
Another example, and one aimed directly at young people, is the Youth Sport Trust. They are a national charity who aim to brighten children’s and teenager’s lives through the delivery of school sport and PE, looking specifically at their wellbeing, leadership roles and achievement opportunities. Other agencies include Living Sport, Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, Street Games and many more.
How can you help these organisations succeed?
So, what can parents themselves do? While the organisations and funds are there, it is equally important for parents to make the most of the opportunities that are available.
Talk to your kids about joining a sports club. Take them to watch a local sporting event to see if they’re interested, and go and watch and support if they do play in a team. If you’re not sure where to start contact your local sports charity eg Active Lincolnshire or Sheffield City Trust. Google ‘sport’ and your city!
“We encourage people, particularly children whilst they’re young, to try a variety of different things and not to worry if they don’t like what someone else likes. Clubs, leisure centres and sports providers hold free taster sessions for lots of sports and activities. The key is to find something you enjoy doing.” Janet Inman, CEO Active Lincolnshire
2) Get involved.
Take them down the park for a kick-around with a ball or to the local swimming pool/climbing wall/running track. Give them a helping hand!
3) Put your hand up.
If there isn’t a team nearby that your child can play for, why not make one? There wouldn’t be such a thing as grassroots sport if it weren’t for volunteers, so make a difference by providing the opportunity for children to enjoy sport.
4) Help out where you can.
Even if you don’t have the time to manage a team or club, every little helps. Painting a changing room wall or marking out a pitch can go a long way.
5) Do your research.
Find out about the opportunities available for your children. Like Sport England, there are a number of organisations there to promote sport and activity. Eg Active Lincolnshire, London Sport, Sport Birmingham
6) Test the water.
Try out different things with your child. Just because they may not like football, for example, it doesn’t mean they won’t want to try another less common sport.
Just how important is it for your kids to exercise?
School sport and PE lessons are one of the easiest ways for children to access physical activity. Peter Beighton, Headmaster at Branston Community Academy near Lincoln, says keeping active is crucial even for day-to-day life.
“Taking part in sport and exercise is vital for any young person, whether it be enjoying PE as part of the school curriculum or joining an extra-curricular club, or even being part of a club outside of school. At Branston, we are always encouraging our students to not just take part in physical activity, but to also enjoy it. On a personal level I have found truth in the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ cliché after seeing my health and work stamina increase as I decided to get myself to a reasonable level of fitness in my 30s. That experience was definitely part of the reason we have started Herons gym on site as a commercial enterprise managed by the school (and it’s doing well so far).”
Jon Foot, who is Head of PE at Branston, emphasised the role of teachers in keeping children physically active.
“Being Head of PE means I have a big responsibility in making sure students both take part in, and make the most out of, sporting activity. Whether that’s doing cross country in PE lessons or encouraging them to join a club outside of school hours, it’s important they are aware of the benefits that physical activity brings. Their physical, mental and social well-being can all be improved by doing sport and they should always be encouraged to engage in whatever sport interests them.”
And it’s not just teachers who can have big impact…..
Volunteers are fundamental to any grassroots sport. One of these is Wes Shelbourne, who manages his son’s junior team, as well as the Academy side, at Lindum CC in Lincoln.
“Being a lifelong cricket fan and recreational player, I was delighted when my son showed an interest in the game. He really benefited from joining Lindum CC and playing junior cricket. I felt it was important to give something back to the club so I volunteered to help with coaching junior players. It’s wonderful, although hard work, to see youngsters develop their cricket skills along with life skills that sport in general, and cricket in particular, offer.”
||News Just In ||
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is working with Vitality Insurance to bring you Vitality Move, a brilliant idea and way to get you moving as a family. “Each of the 2 events bring you a big day out with music and running at its heart. There will be lots of great things for families and committed runners to get involved with from 1 mile fun-runs, family relays to the more traditional 5k and 10k distances – all themed to music designed to keep you moving by DJ Trevor Nelson” Vitality Move
There are endless things you can do to encourage your child to get involved in sport, so get cracking! Aside from the obvious health and fitness benefits, taking part in sport and activities are a great way to build relationships and broaden your child’s social skills and influence. It’s win-win.