My eldest daughter Jennifer received her degree in PE & Biology at a ceremony in DCU recently. There is a great sense of achievement for the family to bring a child through the education system for them to achieve their goals in life. It was great for the family, her grannies and her godmother to get together afterwards to celebrate a huge milestone in all our lives.  I have no doubt as Jennifer starts her career in Dungarvan College; she will continue to be successful. The area I am interested in most, is her role as a PE teacher. There is no doubt she will offer her pupils every opportunity to develop a physical sport that is suitable for them.  Like me, she is very passionate about it.

Nowadays we see so many older people out running, cycling, swimming, playing tennis, even doing walking football. Gealic4Mothers & Others is a prime example of people returning to sport and enjoying it. Many of these people have come to physical sport late in life. Many did do sport when they were very young but like a lot of people, they gave it up at an early age. A lot earlier than they had to or should have.  Its very hard to turn back and do all those sports you could have but there are still opportunities ahead. I honestly, believe that they all regret the decision to end their youthful sports participation now as they get so much enjoyment and health benefits from their chosen activity.  It may be a reason why people think they have to push their child in multiple sports when for some, one done well would suffice. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could transfer the knowledge these older people got from their experiences to our younger generations so as they wouldn’t make the same mistakes and quit activities and sports early.

Wouldn’t it be great if our politicians could really see the benefits of sport and physical activity to young people and our health systems rather than just appearing in the best seats in the stadia on big event days!  We need sport and physical activity to be a huge part of our pre-school and primary education.  We need teachers in those schools who are passionate about sport and physical activity. We must have passionate teachers of PE at all levels of our education system. We need the facilities to be available and we need an end to the school bans on running in the playgrounds and if that means legislation to call halt to stupid threatened lawsuits, so be it! There’s a referendum that might be worth having. Banning stupid lawsuits for kids falling over in the playground! That’s another part of growing up, that is being ruined by the PC brigade. On top of that we need the availability of PE as a subject and an exam subject in all secondary schools, especially with more and more sports creating a professional level.  When all that has been achieved then the politicians will have earned the best seats in the house and that includes our President. I don’t recall PE getting a mention in any presidential election debates by any candidate in the recent campaign!  Many politicians are quick to complain about the health services, but not so quick to promote PE as a means to reduce the workload on our health services!

The sports sector delivers value for money and identifiable returns on investment for Government funds. A report on sport in Ireland (commissioned by the Irish Spots Council) from 2008, stated that on a total state investment of €618.3 million, the Exchequer received €922.7 million in taxes generated by the sports sector. For every €100 investment by the Government, it received €149 in sports related taxes. The financial benefits for the Exchequer through increased economic activity and reduced health service costs are enormous. Listen up Politicians!

Physical education prepares children to be physically and mentally active, fit and healthy for life.  The benefits include

  • Improved physical fitness, skill and motor skills development
  • Provides regular, healthful physical activity
  • Teaches self-discipline
  • Facilitates development of student responsibility for health and fitness
  • Influences moral development and leadership
  • Stress reduction by way of releasing tension and anxiety
  • Strengthens peer relationships
  • Can improve self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Helps you respect your body, classmates and teammates
  • Experience in setting goals
  • Improved academics

The World Health Organisation recommendations in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers says;

  • Children and youths aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily.
  • Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.
  • Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.

As a GAA coach we often hear parents saying their child is doing too much.  I wonder are they really? Are they really fulfilling the daily recommendations?  In my experience most of them, think they are but are not. Is it more a case that the parent is tired of driving to training sessions every night of the week?  Do not use your apathy to restrict your child’s opportunity of physical activity, especially in a team environment among their friends and peers who can be great encouragement.  Many GAA grounds now have walk paths which can allow you to get your physical exercise in while maybe a chat with other parent friends with a comfortable underfoot. You get the same healthy benefits as your child and you set a huge positive example of the importance of physical activity.   I would encourage everyone to push the physical education and participation in sport agenda. There is something for everyone and every ability. No more excuses!