Sport in schools has always caused a bit of debate, whether its concerns over competitiveness (too much/too little?), health and safety, or the rise of obesity and lack of fitness of our children.Age old anecdotes still carry on, cold showers, towel whipping of the geeks and being last to be picked for the football/netball/hockey teams. It seems that sport in schools needs a kick up the ass itself
My own experience of sports in school was that it simply didnt provide me with the sports I was interested in playing hockey and mountain biking. I had 2 left feet when it came to football, was as comfortable in the water swimming as a cat, and the best thing about cricket was working on the tan (when it wasnt raining).As it was, I took part in hockey and cycling outside of school hours, becoming reasonably competent at both, and developing a range of social and hands-on skills as I went. Mountain biking enabled me to be out there in the mountains and hills, enjoying the solitude of the countryside, something which I feel a lot of school kids just dont get to experience.
Teaching football and netball is all well and good, and is an important aspect of any schooling but, to me, it feels that adventure sports arent catered for particularly well in schools. This got me thinking as to why this is the case.
A lack of training for teachers? Unless you are aiming to be one of the top sporting schools, I guess it doesnt take too much to be able to run some basic football/netball training in schools so long as you know the rules, some tactics and skills. Adventure sports on the other hand probably need a more developed skill set to be passed on, so that they can be carried out safely. It would therefore need a pretty committed teacher, or trainer, to come in and commit to the sessions, with a suitable staff : pupil ratio.
The availability of school facilities? Theres no denying that a fleet of mountain bikes would cost a school a ridiculous amount of money, and to make it part of a curriculum would therefore require pupils to have their own bikes somewhat unrealistic. Similarly with surfing or sailing, these are expensive sports to get into. Whilst a hike on a mountain is free to do, and assuming the pupils have suitable footwear and clothing, this shouldnt be too difficult to achieve, so long as the mountains themselves are accessible again, not something which everyone has close by.
Health and safety?Adventure sports are, by their very nature, more risky than a game of football. Over the past few years weve heard of schools stopping school trips thanks to the fear of legal action, following tragic deaths of students whilst under school supervision. Im not saying that adventure sports cant be carried out in a safe manner quite the opposite, however it requires resources and people which often schools simply wouldnt be able to provide, at least on a regular basis.
It may seem then, that adventure sports may never be able to become mainstream in schools, except in maybe a few special cases, such as in Hawaii where surfing has now become an official high school sport, by 2013.
Perhaps then, schools should be looking to introduce adventure sport opportunities, as and when they can. This is being done in some places, however I believe it should become an integral part of any schools sports programmes.
By opening up opportunities and enabling kids to try other sports it gives those who may have been disillusioned by the requirement to play only football in winter, cricket in summer and cross-country running in between, something else to aim for. Maybe this will enable those who previously found the prescribed sports a bore, or not their thing, to shine and achieve the goals they may have. As anyone who has reached a high level of sport knows, reaching that is a massively rewarding experience and one which I, for example, never reached at school.
Schools are a place to learn and develop, so what can we do to ensure that kids get the opportunities they need to learn and develop a healthy interest in adventure sports?If you’re into surfing, check out our surfing holidays page!