Australia: A Sporting Nation At Risk

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We recently let an article in The Conversation engulf our thoughts. It hit hard. Written by James Rudd, it was titled “Can’t throw, can’t catch: Australian kids are losing that sporting edge” and it questioned a long-held, nation-defining belief that Australians are world leaders when it comes to sport. Many of us pride ourselves on being outdoorsy, sporty and fit as a nation, and exceptional and elite on the international arena. Frankly, sport has been our ‘fall-back’ in almost every geo-political argument. We’ve used:

“Many of us pride ourselves on being outdoorsy, sporty and fit as a nation, and exceptional and elite on the international arena.”

“Our population is miniscule compared to [insert big country here]. Let’s just say, we bat above our average.”

“Cadel Evans. Winner.”

“I used to train with Ian Thorpe. I just decided to focus on my studies.”

“Who won the Ashes?” (Date stamped to 2014.)

“Have you seen Australian rules? No helmets.”

“Of course I surf.”

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Rudd’s article, devastatingly, has put our whole identity into question. Some of its findings are:

“Ping pong provides a raft of benefits for children that improve motor skills, cognitive awareness, hand-eye coordination, balance and reflexes.”

  1. 6 year olds have seen a 20-30% decline in Fundamental Movement Skills (running, throwing, kicking, catching, jumping) since 1980.
  2. 6-10 year olds are 10-15% worse off in general physical fitness and skillness since 1980.
  3. Less than 50% of NSW 9-15 year olds are competent at the Fundamental Movement Skills.
  4. 90% of Australian children are scoring below average when compared to American children. *Ghasp*
  5. Not even our most competent children are considered superior compared to American norms. *Deep breaths*

So what does this mean for Australian children?

For our kids to meet the national guidelines, a lot rests on the shoulders of schools, parents, caregivers and service providers. Collectively, we need to:

  1. Ensure children do the required 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  2. Keep screen-time to no more than 2 hours a day.
  3. Provide ample (yes, ample!) opportunities to experience different sports so they can practice and develop a broad range of Fundamental Movement Skills – both in unstructured and structured (organised / coached) settings.

A proven solution? Outdoor ping pong. As we have previously reported, ping pong provides a raft of benefits for children that improve motor skills, cognitive awareness, hand-eye coordination, balance and reflexes; all fundamental elements of the Fundamental Movement Skills.

If we can meet create the right environments for our kids to meet these guidelines – not only will they enjoy higher levels of physical activity, better health-related fitness and increased academic success – we will retain our title of Sporting Nation.

Hear, hear.

 

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