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A question of sport

By Tim Middleton

A popular television programme in the UK that has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary is entitled, A Question of Sport. In this light-hearted and amusing programme, famous sportsmen and women take part in a quiz based on sporting questions. The various rounds include sections on identifying sports stars from photos, explaining action from sports clips, answering general knowledge questions on sport and acting out sporting terms — all good natured and lots of banter!

Here, then is a question of sport for all of us this week: which 18-year-old girl has hit the headlines worldwide (as well as the jackpot) recently and for what reason? There cannot be many who will not know the answer to that question, the answer being Emma Raducanu who in July received one A* and one A in her A’levels and then in September won the US Open Ladies Tennis Championship, having been the first person to go through three qualifying rounds to win the tournament. This was an extraordinary achievement by one so young, so inexperienced, so raw.

Yet, in the face of all the above, there is another question of sport that is actually being asked: why are some schools doing sport? This is not a light-hearted or amusing question, but a very serious one.

Schools re-opened on August 30. Sport is not a useful extra tagged on to school life for those that may wish, but it is an integral and essential part of education; it is part of the curriculum. Vital lessons are learned through sport that are not taught in the classroom. In that regard, therefore, it should be patently obvious that when schools re-open, so sport recommences.

Sport obviously is vital as it also develops, amongst other things, greater physical fitness in the youngsters. When people are physically fit, they are less prone to succumb to illness or bugs; they are stronger to fight off any sickness. Sport is a perfect antidote to prevent people becoming ill. The sad reality that is prevalent in schools right now is that most children are incredibly unfit, because they have not been doing any sport during lockdown. There is all the more reason to get children playing sport again, to improve their physical health and well-being.

A further reason that children should be doing sport is that they are far less likely to contract covid-19 when they are out on the sports fields, out in the open air, in open spaces, rather than being stuck in a classroom or dormitory or common room. The sunshine will boost their metabolism, the open air will ventilate their lungs — logic is crying out for them to get out and play sport!

In addition (if we have not seen enough already), physical fitness assists mental health and alertness. Contrary to many people’s reasoning, a child will achieve greater success academically when she is active physically; sitting in a chair all day in front of books slows the body down and dulls the mind. Going from studying to sport freshens the mind and prepares the pupil for more effective studying later. Raducanu gained top grades in her A’levels while playing tennis at the highest level. Neither her academic grades nor her sport suffered. We must not deprive children that opportunity.

A few days before Raducanu gained her place in the history books, the SRC here in Zimbabwe issued a paper saying that, “The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) advises National Sport Associations (NSAs), delivery agencies and all stakeholders that with effect from September 1, 2021, ALL SPORTING CODES were approved to resume activities.” Then a few days after the US Open Final, the Zimbabwe Cabinet briefing of September 14, 2021 reported that “While Cabinet previously approved the resumption of low-risk sporting activities, it has further resolved that all sport codes can resume.”

So, we are left with two final questions about sport. Firstly, who says that sport should not be done in school? It may well be that it is people who have not achieved in sport and who are not involved in sport themselves. And finally, the real question we should be asking is this: why are all schools not doing sport? On what possible grounds can anyone object to sport being done in schools when the sports bodies and Cabinet, let alone science, have approved it? It should, in fact, be an absolute requirement that all schools are ensuring all pupils are doing sport. No question about it!

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 
  • email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw
  • website: www.atschisz

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