Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Game over

It's so weird to wake up to morning TV again, instead of the Olympics. I'm a bit of an Olympics nut - I love watching all the sports - love the glory of winning, the agony of defeat, the weird and wonderful sports you don't get to usually see. I don't usually enjoy watching sport, but once every 4 years, I get my fix. (I did not love listening to the inane commentary of Karl Stefanovic (overseas readers, be thankful you don't have to suffer him too). I do not know how Lisa Wilkinson has not slapped him. Oh, but hold the phone! Apparently someone has!! I feel better now).

Anyhoo, I digress. Australia came 10th out of 204 countries that competed. We got 7 gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze medals. The press here have been scathing about our "poor" performance. Although if you twiddle the stats enough, some reckon we did OK. Tears were shed over silver medal performances - and not of joy. And now of course, comes the recriminations and suggestions for how we can improve our Olympic performance.

Future Olympians?
 I'll just be happy if they can swim to save their lives and for fitness!

You know what's coming next, don't you?  The calls for "we need to spend more money on sports funding". And the ubiquitous "let's put more sports in schools". Sigh. Every time there is an "issue" that needs fixing, inevitably the suggestion is to fix it by putting it in the school curriculum (like bike safety and drugs awareness). Obviously these well-meaning souls have never actually either a) looked at the current curriculum to see how over-crowded it is with well-meaning outcomes that really should be covered by families at home or b) never actually spent any time in school to see how over-crowded the days are already trying to fit every outcome in.

Go Video Boy! Try your hardest!!

I have a couple of issues with the push to fit more sport into schools.

Firstly, in NSW at least, there is ALREADY sport in schools. Compulsory school sport, once a week up to Year 10. And also Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), where some schools take physical activity so seriously it is done every morning. In addition to the standard "curriculum", there are sports carnivals, swimming carnivals, cross-country carnivals and if you child succeeds at those, there are Regional, State and National carnivals. And not just in athletics and swimming - you can also represent the school in rugby league, rugby union, AFL, soccer, touch football, hockey, gymnastics, tennis, squash, cricket, skiing, snow-boarding and surfing (and more, except I forget all the teams fielded by the high school I taught at). There are presentation days, complete with trophies, certificates and medals, for sport. I think if you have any kind of talent for any kind of physical activity, there is ample opportunity at school to develop and improve that talent.

Wombat Girl at Regional (that's right, baby! Regional!) cross-country

Secondly, if you (god forbid) do not excel in the sporting arena, I don't see how doing more PE or sport will encourage you to gold medal winning performances at the Olympics. But I could be wrong...

Thirdly (and you knew this was coming), why aren't we pushing for more funding for the Maths or Biology Olympiads?? Where is our national pride in academic achievements? Why are there always more sports awards than academic awards? Why are they not more balanced? Because let's face it, the vast majority of us are never going to be elite level athletes that represent our country (we can dream, we can try, but it's unlikely). Most of us are like me, sitting on our couches yelling at the TV, while periodically going out and trying to stay fit and healthy (and sometimes succeeding, sometimes not). But we have the potential to do more with our academic talent than we currently do. Why more of our taxpayer dollars should be spent on an already well-funded activity so we can feel better about ourselves as a sport-watching nation is a bit beyond me.

Video Boy receiving his High Distinction in the UNSW Science exams

I'm not saying here that there should be no, or less, sports funding. We obviously get some benefits out of our elite level sportspeople. And I'm not saying that our more academically-minded kids can never be good at sport (it can and does happen...not in this household, but apparently in others). And I'm a firm believer in developing good life-long habits of physical exercise that we enjoy that can help keep us healthy (and also boosts brain-function), which is why I try to drag my lard-ass off the couch and go running.

Our national pre-occupation with sport, sporting outcomes, and sporting heroes is, in my humble opinion, a little skewed. We need to value other achievements a little more equally. And for goodness sake, let's not shove more stuff into an already over-crowded school curriculum for the sake of a bunch of couch potatoes' satisfaction every 4 years!

 What do you think? 
Do you like watching the Olympics?
Do you care about the medal tally?
Should there be more sport in schools/curriculum?
Do we have too much emphasis on sport, at the expense of other fields of endeavour?


  1. No. PE was torture for me in school.
    I do not care about the Olympics,
    even though my country finally won a medal this year, I really couldn't care less.
    However much is invested in sports (in schools) should be invested in arts and other extra-curricular activities.

  2. well Ingi, move over on that soapbox and make room for me:){}
    The school system is indeed well overburdened by a curriculum that could and should be cut in half. Half of which is the parents role. I mean teaching manners? Isn't that the parents job! No wonder there is no time to teach the basics well.
    anyhow I digress, if money is being 'thrown' around, why not target children whose parents could never afford (or certainly could do with a helping hand) to take their children to the higher levels of sporting excellence.
    and yes this focus on sports is very much an Australian cultural identity, never mind focusing and encouraging children's abilities in other arenas. sports always comes top!

  3. I love that first poolside picture!
    I watched the Olympics for the first time,this year.
    We don't watch any sports (except maybe skiing), though we fish, swim, play baseball (just within our family), snow ski, jump, and bike.

  4. We love sports and really enjoyed the olympics but I fully agree with what you are saying. Sport is great if it teaches you a healthy way of life but it's certainly not the be all and end all and we definitely should not be putting some of these people on such pedestals simply because they are athletic ... some of the footballers behaviour off field is embarassing. We seriously need to invest in sciences, etc. I would be so proud to say one of my countrymen found the cure for cancer for instance ... way more impressive than any sporting accomplishment and the thing is I think some of our sports people would agree with that.


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