Most parents will agree that the key to a good education is a good balance of academics, leadership, sport and creativity. However in today’s age, where a lot of emphasis is placed on handing over the choice to the children – the question of what should and shouldn’t be compulsory can be tricky terrain. One of the most common topics of debate here tends to be sport.
The need for sport...
Recent research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 1 in 4 Australian children aged 2-17 were overweight or obese in 2014-2015. As we grow older this statistic escalates to 2 in 3 adults. Further to this, The Australian Burden of Disease Study in 2011 found physical inactivity and high BMI to be leading risk factors for a host of diseases. In light of these numbers, many parents ask the question: Should sport be compulsory in school for my child?
Although there isn't a nation-wide implementation of compulsory sport just yet, many private schools are jumping on board.
Take the example of Sydney's Scots College where each student is expected to join a winter and summer sport and participate in the athletic and swimming teams if selected. The college cites building friendships, exercise, academic improvement and developing healthy life habits among the many reasons behind this decision.
Ultimately though, the debate boils down to the benefits of sports vs the importance of personal choice. While many parents acknowledge the advantages of exercise, they are hesitant of enforcing it upon their children. However, a key incentive here for parents is that many are simply too busy to organise sport for their children outside of school. In such circumstances, parents can rest assured that their child is getting the exercise they need in school with compulsory sport.
The benefits of sport have been well documented over the years both statistically and anecdotally. The WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries gives some more examples:
- Creates higher self-esteem
- Improves mental health
- Children who participate in school are more likely to perform better and enjoy their school experience
- Reduces the chance of obesity, diabetes and some forms of cancer
- Helps build a sense of community and belonging
- Helps hone leadership skills
- Can create employment opportunities in the future.
- Alternatives to traditional sport
Given the various health issues that can result from inactivity and obesity, the case for making sport compulsory is a strong one. However, if not every child is interested, why should they be forced to play? A good approach schools can follow here is to make sport more fun and inclusive for children. Instead of focusing solely on traditional sports, schools should look to incorporate alternative forms of exercise such as yoga, pilates, golf and gymnastics. While competitive sport is surely a great way of teaching children leadership skills, for some students, taking away the competition can be the push that's needed. Broadening the scope of sport and exercise offered can be the happy medium needed to settle this debate. Game on we say.