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.”
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.”
- 6 year olds have seen a 20-30% decline in Fundamental Movement Skills (running, throwing, kicking, catching, jumping) since 1980.
- 6-10 year olds are 10-15% worse off in general physical fitness and skillness since 1980.
- Less than 50% of NSW 9-15 year olds are competent at the Fundamental Movement Skills.
- 90% of Australian children are scoring below average when compared to American children. *Ghasp*
- 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:
- Ensure children do the required 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
- Keep screen-time to no more than 2 hours a day.
- 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.