“We did not raise our kids to be one-sport athletes. You have to let them explore options… You have to make sure they know that life is more than one sport, or one goal.”
Welcome back to the PE Umbrella my friends for this very special episode, reflecting on a real ‘aha’ moment that I experienced just this week. This moment made me re-open the debate of early vs late specialisation in sport and also made me ask myself “Do we provide enough variety and opportunity for our children in school sport and primary PE?” particularly at Primary School. For me, opportunity to try out otherwise ‘niche’ activities or less ‘obvious’ sports is hugely important and can really help us see our children in a different light and unlock potential that may have otherwise stayed hidden…
My case in point and ‘aha’ moment happened on a visit to the local climbing wall with a group of 30 KS2 children this past week. This visit is branded a ‘super pupil’ trip and was a reward for their effort and behaviour in school throughout the first term. Amongst this group was a particular young girl (with whom I had been teaching PE since Sept once a week) who had never ‘stood out’ as been exceptional at any of the activities we had done during lessons. She was more ‘middle of the road’ or even ‘working towards’ in my mind but clearly enjoyed being physically active and always had a small on her face. That been said, I had a major shock when I watched her on the climbing wall as she took to it like a fish to water! She was the best climber of the group and showed brilliant composure, thought and strength to easily scale the wall. If she placed a foot in the wrong place, she re-assessed the best way to move upwards, showed brilliant co-ordination to adjust her body and then proceeded. It was methodical, thoughtful, natural. It completely transformed how I perceived her, in terms of physical ability. Had this opportunity never been presented to her, I would have never seen this aspect of physical activity in which she excelled and perhaps more importantly, she may have never realised herself just how good she was. This brought an enormous smile to my face and made me realise that perhaps I did ‘Judge a book by its cover’.
This exposure to many sports and activities can only be a good thing right? How do you know your not the next world champion at climbing or archery unless you are given the chance to try it? The recent passing of Rugby Union legend Jonah Lomu was tragic, and his presence will be sorely missed as his incredible legacy lives on. However, when his school sport records from 1989 were released, it is clear to see that he was a multi talented all rounder before becoming one of the most dominant rugby union players of all time. He was exposed to a variety of sports that helped to hone his skills! Check out the records HERE.
Jordan Spieth, the world number 1 golfer, whilst taking up golf from an incredibly young age, was also exposed to a huge variety of sports and activities that have helped to shape him as an outstanding performer on the world stage today. This article is a very interesting read, showcasing how Jordan played American Football, Baseball and even Basketball to complement his Golfing potential and avoid ‘burnout’.
Therefore my message to you, the PE Umbrella community, is to continue delivering high quality PE to your children, but to also diversify as much as is reasonable to do so and expose children to a range of ‘non traditional’ sports. This may be during lessons or as part of a trip or visit! To get the ball rolling I have attached a link to a map of all of the indoor Climbing Centres across the UK, check them out, there is sure to be one close to you! Alternatively, try other fun sports and activities such as Tchoukball, Handball, Archery, Table Tennis or Orienteering to mix things up and keep that desire for physical activity and sport burning well into adulthood! There are sure to be children who completely surprise you!
I hope you have enjoyed today’s episode and I look forward to seeing you next time ‘Under the Umbrella’