Longer version of my column Run&Bee in Hindustan Times on 9th March 2019 (week 41): Exercise & Sports should be fun for kids, not chore or punishment.
For ages sports and exercises have been used as punishment. I remember doing push-ups, wall-squats, head-stands, running laps of the field etc. as a disciplinary sanction during school days. As recent as 2014, even global leaders in education were not only approving this, but were actually recommending too. A document by UK’s Department for Education titled ‘Behaviour and discipline in schools: advice for headteachers and staff’ mentioned ‘extra physical activity such as running around a play field’ as one of the disciplinary measure to counter poor behaviour.
Once exercise and sports has a negative connotation, children would not be excited about them in the future even when they become aware of all their benefits. As parents, teachers and mentors we need to be careful because our well meaning actions could scar the next generation for life.
As appealing as winning medals and trophies is, it is important to first connect physical activities, games and sports to fun and joy. I have seen way too many children aspiring to win the medals at the highest levels either because their parents are trying to live their dreams through their children or maybe kids could be motivated enough themselves. But somewhere down the road, on that long journey, the aspiring athletes are not enjoying that sport and it’s just become a job. Repeatedly scientific studies have suggested not to rush training young children in single sport alone but to train them in multiple sports with the focus on fun. It needs to be about happiness.
Fun at School Sports Day
I saw exactly that a couple of weeks back at the annual sports day of The Millennium School in Gurugram, which by chance I was visiting. I definitely was in for a surprise as to me sports day means a structured plan where the focus is on winning, almost always at any cost.
The Millennium School is only 6 years old and currently is till 8th standard with not a very large campus, especially sports field. The passion of the management and the teachers more than makes up for the massive playing fields. I was fascinated to learn from the principal, Ms Vineeta Mittal, that they focus on overall development of the child and not only academics, something missing big time in Delhi NCR academics fraternity. The parents did their bit by showing up in large numbers and cheering for their wards.
Pretty much all throughout there were popular pop songs playing in the background that gave a feel of a fancy fair. Participation was not limited to a few elite athletes of the school. All the students from all the classes were participating. They started off with march-past, which was amazing as it was their first year doing it. It gave a sense of discipline to work as a unit where no one is bigger than the other, something we all see lacking in the society today.
There were some fun races like Hungry Crab, Bumble-Bee and Bunny-Hop to name a few. There were dance performances and drills by students and the passionate teachers very happily led them, helping the students to move carefree. They had some traditional Indian games kho-kho and kabbadi which are usually missing during school sports days. The team spirit that comes along is amazing in these sports. Kids were also participating in table-tennis, badminton and skating.
All through out the fun element and camaraderie were clearly visible, which to me matter a lot more. The school had managed to make the whole event a lot of fun for everyone and the students are likely to be active for life. We definitely need a lot more institutions like The Millennium School where sports and physical activity plays an important role in education.
Tip of the week:
As much teachers need to lead by example, parents too need to exercise and play sports with their kids, having fun together at all times, as bonding will be at a whole different level.