Let’s loosen up sport and enjoy it again!

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WHILE never a sporty girl, I was great at participation; I gave everything a go especially in primary and early high school years, from ballroom dancing to badminton.

Kate Meikle.

I enjoyed trying out new sports and activities in the hope I would be successful at one of them. Turned out I wasn’t!  

Sport got harder in the later years of high school. The competition aspect and expectation that you had to be good at sports increased and that’s where it took the fun out of it for me.

Sport got serious. Great for those seeking the thrill and challenge of competition but not so much for me when I just wanted to have fun.

School sport was tortuous – cross-country running in the depth of winter mornings when the sports teachers drove along calling: “Run faster, girls!” from a minivan, collecting injured runners along the way, felt like a cop out. I certainly didn’t learn any particular skills apart from a passionate hatred of running. It took a long time before I gave jogging a go and I actually don’t mind it. I now know there’s a lot to understand about the sport science of running with training and techniques to do it correctly and enjoyably. That would have been good to learn.

I hope there’s more to offer today’s young women to keep them engaged in sport. But it’s staggering that even today’s high school girls have a significant decrease in physical activity, compared to boys. Less than 10 per cent of female high-school students in Canberra are meeting Australia’s physical activity guidelines.

ACT government programs such as “Girls: It’s Your Move” support high schools to take a holistic approach to engage students and increase girls’ participation in physical activity. And, of course, the recent rise of women’s elite sport will continue to inspire and motivate more girls to keep going into early adulthood and beyond. But work clearly still needs to be done.  

Now I am a mum, I want my kids to try out and enjoy as wide a range of sport and active activities we can afford and schedule.

My best friend and I recently spent a blissful morning’s play date with our four children and for those seeking a definition of a blissful play date is one where the children don’t fight, cry or hurt themselves, where the parents can sit, chat and take a little break from the constant demands of motherhood, while the children enjoy imaginative play and build their own little friendships.

It was one of those special times where we had almost run out of things to say to each other as our kids were playing so beautifully together. One of the things we chatted about was different football classes we had signed the children up for, on the advice of a kindergarten expert who said that children who were confident and able to play ball-sports make friends during lunchtimes and help ease the transition into “big” school.

The penny dropped for me that our default setting was to let the dads or others to do sports with the kids. We decided that wasn’t right. So, in addition to the classes, we resolved to get the soccer balls out of the garage and at our next play date the mums will kick the ball around with the kids at the park.

So mums, let’s not sit back! I don’t expect or particularly desire my kids to become elite or professional sportspeople – rather I would prefer them to get pleasure from lots of different sports played together, with their friends and their parents, too.

But that means that I have to model this for them. They need to see their mum take time for my active health needs, see my face sweaty and red from exercise, and experience what a laugh it is when mum kicks the ball with them. And believe me, they will laugh!

I am proud to be supporting the Mother’s Day Classic on Sunday, May 12, joining in the annual run or walk with my family around Lake Burley Griffin to raise funds for breast cancer research. Visit mothersdayclassic.com.au


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Kate Meikle
Kate Meikle is a staff reporter for "CityNews"

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