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Open letter: Children’s abilities | Lack of

Fundamental skills from Enjoy-a-Ball

An open letter from one of our senior business owners, Paul Rendall, and he has hit the nail on the head…

Don’t quite know where to start, but this is something that has been on my mind for a while. A few people might get upset with what they’re about to read. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really care too much. It’s something that I feel needs to be said, otherwise it will continue to gnaw away at me.

I’ve worked with kids, providing sports coaching for 15 years now. It’s a fantastic award winning programme and I’ve been lucky to work with thousands of great kids and families, in that time.

The feedback from the teaching and health profession has been very positive. Our programme is based on a number of values and principles. Our objective is that Enjoy-a-Ball provides children with a safe and encouraging introduction, to what we hope will be a lifetime of sport and activity.

There’s nothing better than bumping into an ex Enjoy-a-Baller and hearing about how they’re still participating in sport.

So what’s the problem?

Well, in 15 years I’ve seen a steady erosion of children’s abilities when it comes to movement, gross & fine motor skills and sport. I see thousands of children every year, at classes, camps, parties and school taster sessions.

In my opinion, we’re sitting on a time-bomb.

The list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, we have loads of talented kids around, and when I see some of our teams practicing their Messi and Ronaldo flicks and tricks, I just stand in awe and ask them to teach me! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been nutmegged – and that includes at basketball!

However, there is no doubt in my mind that there has been a decline in children’s abilities generally. Having spoken to teachers and other professionals many are of the same view.

So what’s going wrong?

Life has changed hugely even over the last 15 years. The web of technology continues to grow and many children are very very comfortable navigating their way through tablets, phones etc.

The gaming industry is massive with the lure of fast paced, colourful, action packed games proving almost irresistible.
Personally, I can’t live without technology and I think it’s great to see kids so confident, but it’s all about balance.

Walk through housing estates and play ‘spot the kid game’. Where are they all? It’s like the child catcher scene out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Finances have become very stretched for many families due to the mismanagement of the economy by Government. Some kids are in school from first thing until tea time as parents have to work every hour to help make ends meet. For some kids, the days of going home and going out to play with their pals are long gone.Skills would be learned by playing kerbie, shapes, hop scotch or skipping.

The new nursery hours provision introduced by the Government really worries me. Some of our schools and nurseries don’t have the infrastructure to cope. So called gym halls double as canteens, assembly rooms etc and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

We have PE being taught to kids by teachers with no aptitude or interest in PE. We wouldn’t want our children being taught Maths by a Geography teacher so why do we allow this?

We have some children who don’t receive their target hours of PE per week. Again, we wouldn’t tolerate that for Maths or English, so why PE?

This isn’t a cheap shot at teachers by the way.                                                                  I know the pressure schools are under in terms of infrastructure and budgets. I wouldn’t be a teacher at any price. We have teams of Active Schools Coordinators whose job is to uplift physical participation in their schools but I know how difficult it can be to do that job with one if not two hands tied behind your back.

It’s the politicians and suits that are in my sights.

Much was made of the London Olympics legacy. I haven’t seen any evidence of it. All I’ve seen is that steady decline; leisure facilities being mothballed or with reduced hours, kids not receiving the support and input that they deserve, council pitches being ripped up and sold to house builders etc

We talk a lot about the obesity crisis. It’s not the only crisis. We have a generation of children, many of whom will miss out on the many positives that playing sport can bring.
I think our society will be a much poorer one for that.

We have an army of volunteers who run your local sports teams but I know how difficult that can be and how many obstacles are put in their way. They need help.

Time for the policy makers to wake up and smell the coffee. Time to sort out this mess before we lose another generation.
Sorry for the rant. I guess it would be much easier just not to give a monkeys

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