Reviving a love for sports

ALL WORK, NO PLAY?

At home, 10-year-old Diya would spend her free time in front of the TV, sunk deep in the sofa cushion.

The movement of her fingers on the remote was the only exercise for her muscles. When her parents chide her into switching off the TV, she would stay rooted in online and video games. 

At school too, there was just 30 minutes for sports. Consequently, she became inactive, disliked physical activities and displayed poor physical fitness.

This is the case with most children today. The days when they used to play in mud and sweat it out on playgrounds are passe.  Sporting activities have taken a backseat, thanks to poor infrastructure in schools and academic pressure. The scene at home is no better. Unhealthy eating habits coupled with sedentary options like television, internet and video games have put children at risk of growing up to be inactive adults.

As many as 61 per cent school-going children in India grow up without the right fundamental skills needed to engage in sports, says a survey by EduSports, a physical education and school sports enterprise. Around 48 per cent were not proficient even in activities like running, 64 per cent were not good at hopping, and 71 per cent were unable to even throw or catch properly. Says Saumil Majmudar, CEO & co-founder, EduSports: “It is disheartening to see that skills like running or throwing, which we took for granted a couple of decades ago, are now deficient among today’s children.”

A fitness level study among 20,000 children in 73 schools in 2010-2011 showed 43 per cent had unhealthy body composition. In the group, 24 per cent had higher than normal BMI scores indicating signs of obesity, while 57 per cent recorded average to poor flexibility scores leaving this group of children at a risk of developing problems related to their back as they grow up. “The challenge now is to arrest the trend by providing a more structural physical education programme at the school and wean the kids away from online games at homes,” he adds.

To make up for the inadequacies, many sporting enterprises have emerged which are partnering with schools to provide a structured and comprehensive sports curriculum backed by cutting-edge technology.  Enterprises like EduSport and KOOH (Kids Out Of Home) manage infrastructure for schools, conduct physical training for children, provide equipment and advanced technologies to help deliver a better sporting experience to the students.

EduSport works with over 160 schools and covers more than 1,30,000 children across 60 cities in India, while a new entrant in the field, KOOH reaches out to 6,000 children across schools in Mysore, Coimbatore, Pune, Panchgani, Aurangabad and Sonepat.

Says John Chandy, Sports head of KOOH: “Our objective is to revive a love for physical sports, when cricket is the most exalted sport. We want to make sports more interactive and provide expertise in games like basketball, football, volleyball, athletics, swimming and tennis, which would increase the fitness levels of the child and help them to sweat it out on the field.”

He says in a day school, the activities are conducted during school hours, while in a residential school it’s a combination of school hours and after-school activities. During school, two periods per week per class (approximately one hour each) is allotted. After the school hours, 2-3 hours per day on average is allotted for sports, says Chandy.

The programme also gives children a lesson in nutrition and addresses problems of childhood obesity and poor fitness. “Kids get to strengthen their muscles, perform cardiovascular exercise, stretch, and learn relaxation techniques while having fun with age-appropriate equipment,” he says.

EduSports has designed a sport curriculum for K-12 schools. It’s integrated into the time-table, is age-appropriate and covers all the children in the class. “Our mission is to shift the focus of sports from mere competition among the best to include all children. Physical Education sessions will then become enjoyable for children and skills and fitness will follow,” says Majmudar.

Uma Ramesh, principal of TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School, elaborates on the benefits. “A structured PE programme has been a part of our curriculum for two years. Seemingly lethargic children have overcome laziness. They also have developed immunity towards common ailments. Children with less appetite have shown improvements in their eating habits. The energy level has increased as we do not find kids getting tired easily.”

Parents agree. Says Aparna, mother of a Zee Public School student: “Each child gets equal attention unlike during mundane PT classes. Here the emphasis is not on winning but participating. My daughter’s knowledge about nutrition and hygiene too has improved.”

The fee depends on the programme the school selects and the school is charged and not the students. KOOH also has outdoor activities for children and parents so as to help them spend quality time together.

“These days the usual destination for family entertainment is malls, multiplexes, game zones and food courts.  We want to bring children out of these and provide a healthy platform for parent-child bonding through outdoor sports and activities,” says Puneet Mehra, Head, FAF, (fun at field). We have innovative formats that include games played wearing inflatables, costumes and props. This inculcates team-building, leadership spirit in each individual,” he adds.

KOOH’s sporting activities are conducted for classes KG 1 to Class 12 and are designed in such a way that it provides age-appropriate content for kids. (Refer to the box above.)

KOOH’s Programmes
* KG to K1  — Lays the basic motor skills and develops body space awareness for every child
* K1 to K3 — Builds a foundation of basic movements for sport
* K4 to K5 — Formal introduction to organised sport through the teaching of rules, etiquettes and technique (athletics, football, volleyball, swimming, cricket, basketball, tennis)
* K6 to K8  — Introduction to the science of sports in the field of play through integration with the disciplines of sports psychology, sports physics, sport nutrition and sports physiology
* K9 to K12 — Teaching of mental and tactical sport skills, in addition to plyometric training and strength conditioning to create pathways of sport specialisation.

Write to us Should schools give equal importance to sports as well as academics? If so what can schools do to balance the two? Write to dheducation@deccanherald.co.in in not more than 150 words to reach us by November 17, 2011. A selection of responses we receive will be published in a subsequent issue of Education.

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