Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Getting your kids into sport

I have often thought when the right time might be to make a concerted effort to get my kids into running or sport in general. Is "making a concerted effort" even the right approach to take? What do you think?

I know that my end goal is for my kids to find a sport or athletic activity that they enjoy doing. The aim has to be that they enjoy taking part in sport so that they think of it as a pleasure rather than a chore. I don't think many people would disagree that, now more than ever, it is very important to ensure that we have regular physical activity in our lives, as so much of our time is spent in a sedentary way.

I couldn't possibly say whether that was the approach my parents took, whether they ever considered regular exercise to be a desirable outcome, or whether it was just by chance that I was lucky enough to be reasonably good at most sports that I tried and therefore got the necessary encouragement to make it pleasurable. In my case I believe it was more luck than judgement.

I have always tried not to push my kids into sport. If anything I have taken a far too neutral stance on the subject. I was always a footballer myself - for school, clubs, university, semi-pro and so on, but I have hardly even tried to get my boys to play at all. Even kickabouts in the back garden have been limited. Only because they have never really shown any interest, but this does show how little I have pushed them.

My kids are well aware of how much I enjoy sport. They know full well that I "go running" and "do parkrun". My hope has been that this will gradually rub off on them.

We were lucky enough to get tickets to take the kids to the Olympics and Paralympics and we also made sure that the kids saw plenty of the action on the TV. Not that the TV watching part of this process is in itself making them active. But hopefully the end justifies the means. One of our big hopes from this was for the kids to realise just how many different sports there are out there to interest them, or perhaps for them to become good at.

After the Olympics the evidence was there that this had had a very positive impact on the kids. They were spending days in the garden using anything they could find lying about to use as a javelin (cricket stumps and sticks), a discus (frisbee), hurdles (upturned buckets and sticks). Even diving was attempted - off the slide into the paddling pool (this event was quickly discouraged on safety grounds).

Better than this were the games played after the Paralympics. This Paralympics may have shown the world what amazing athletes Paralympians are, but the real legacy is that now we have a new young generation, with no pre-conceived ideas, whose greatest exposure to people with disabilities has shown them simply as the amazing athletes that the Paralympians are. Seeing and hearing the kids playing paralympic sports as Jonnie Peacock, Richard Whitehead, David Weir, Oscar Pistorius and many others was just simply brilliant.

In my next blog post I will follow this up with how this summer has changed my kids desire to get active and even get out running.

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