Helen Martin: Exercise restraint when it comes to coaching kids

ACTIVITY plus exercise equals sport, and Sporting Chance is a new campaign for the Evening News. Some people are avidly following this because of the disappearance of 35 public football pitches over the last 20 years.Some are concerned about childhood obesity and others fear that Scotland’s chance of producing champions in any sport is reduced by the lack of free facilities.

Monday, 2nd September 2019, 6:00 am
The number of youngsters involved in sport drops from the age of 11 onwards. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

But one of the major concerns of the Observatory for Sport in Scotland (OSS) is not about creating champs or focusing purely on football. It’s about increasing participation in sport and exercise for all ages from toddlers to pensioners.

A crucial factor is how the proportion of 11 to 15-year olds taking part in ­outside school sports is steadily dropping – for girls, it’s plummeting. Part of that is due to reduced council spending, the loss of sports grounds and the cost of joining clubs and receiving training.

Another important issue is how youngsters are often over-professionally coached, as if their aim is to be a ­champion. It involves absolute punctuality, diktats on what kind of clothing and kit they must wear, total attendance for training sessions, advice on what they should eat, taking part in all matches or sessions, being a compulsory rule unless they have a serious excuse, and making the sport the priority of their young life. Winning and aiming for professionalism is not what produces widespread participation if a youngster simply wants to enjoy the game or challenge and have fun.

They may well be happily committed – until they reach young teenage years when their life expands. They start high school, make new friends, build up their own social life and start dating with boyfriends and girlfriends. Deciding on their own clothing style, make-up and hair styles become vital for girls, beer introduction is standard, especially for boys, and for all of them homework for O grades and subsequent Highers has to be factored in. Growing up for some is easier than for others, and even the numbers of 16 to 25-year-olds drop when it comes to regular participation.

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For those on a championship route, sport comes first. But many no longer have the time or the ‘subservience’ needed for serious coaching.

Personal freedom is time away from do-as-you’re-told parents and teachers – sporting bossy folk might not be appealing any more. A Saturday job is a good start to making money, but rules out some sport involvement.

There will be some teenagers who are sportingly ambitious, dream of championships, and are insatiable when it comes to coaching, whether that’s for swimming, cricket, football, rugby, karate, cycling, ballet or anything else. They need special sessions devoted to their advancement.

Increasing general participation is a different ball game. Those who run sports clubs and activities have to ease up and focus on providing a more casual approach, a less authoritative role, all of which maintains enthusiasm, enjoyment and support of the sport as a fun hobby without serious commitment, rather than devotion to a future career. How many can accommodate pensioners, middle-aged enthusiasts, partially ­disabled or those of any age fighting obesity who also want to take part?

Enough public grounds, and ­community venues, volunteers, government, council and private financial support, can create this key to reducing obesity, increasing ­happiness and improving health.

That’s participation.

This mad and unbelieveable Brexit’s a blinder of a drama

NO mention of Brexit from me this week. In the days and hours before this is published, anything even more mad and unbelievable could happen.

Boris and Trump could be diagnosed as Martians. Oliver Cromwell could be resurrected. The NHS could be privatised. The death penalty reintroduced. The UK could become a tax haven. Jeremy Corbyn could switch to being a No 1 rapper. Who knows?

I’ve stopped floating and I’m now ready to vote SNP. I took up Twitter again and so much breaking news comes that I’m glued to my iPhone, abandoning my Kindle, burning dinner and struggling to concentrate on my adored Peaky Blinders. It is a serious addiction but tells people more than TV news bulletins.

I’ve even come to admire Ruth Davidson (a bit) for ‘shutting down’ on Boris Johnson, whether she admits that or not.

All I can say now about Brexit is that it’s like living through a sci-fi, occult, psychological thriller series that lasts for years. What’s the chance of a happy ending?

Struck dumb by the malfunctioning smart meters

IF you have a smart meter, you might be in those one in three households who wish they hadn’t installed it.

A third (around four million) found that in the past six years their meter had gone ‘phut’ if they changed suppliers, if part of it broke, or some other reason they couldn’t fathom.

The industry rumour is that ‘second generation’ meters are much better, but there’s no guarantee that the first have all been binned.

These are the latest statistics which I’m happy to share because the last time I advised readers not to install one, despite TV ads, the meter boss man responded with a letter saying I was lying.

Interesting to see if he complains again.

With cats away, mice will play

NOT only Tom Kitchin’s kitchen but Portobello High School and the Royal Ed hospital also have mice, according to Food Standards.

Mice are very “productive” and clever at avoiding traps and poison pots. Turn the clocks back and allow cats – problem solved.