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Getting back to basics

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Every day, we keep harping about why this country is not producing more well rounded athletes and more able bodied teenagers, with any degree of frequency.

Three decades ago, and this is speaking in my time, this was a norm. Today, these athletes are few and far between.{{more}}

Neither do we stop and ask, why are walking and other forms of exercise being recommended by doctors after we have failed to do what is needed to maintain that accepted shape and size?

And, the reason lies in the fact that we have moved away from the basics, and fail to recognise what worked then.

When last have you seen youngsters involved in a game of Bean Bag, Hop Scotch, Cat and Mouse, Moral or Jacks? Or the older folks indulging in some card games that insured agility of their minds?

It was a travesty, then, that as a young boy or of young girl, you were not adept at some simple physical tasks.

Most young people feared to be known as not having any “boy days” or “girl days”, so they often willingly or reluctantly got close to some physical activity to avoid this ridicule.

Climbing and jumping over obstacles whether as structured play or just simply what fitted into our pattern of socialization were everyday occurrences.

The climbing of fruit trees was common place as obtaining fruits, once you desired what was your objective, and the onus was on you to get them or do without.

“Bunnings” and “Dodge”, although with their evident dimension of danger, were the training ground for agility, and punting, which are necessary prerequisites for some sporting disciplines.

Through these activities, children were automatically proficient at high jump or long jump, without any formal training. Their bone structures were enhanced and general coordination easily fell into place.

Today, the situation is the reverse, as parents, some because of over protection, while others through sheer ignorance, discourage their children from climbing, jumping, running, and conjure up some excuse, for their non participation.

The changing faces of our surroundings, where trees and the like have been replaced by concrete structures, add to this evolution.

Our cricketers’ inability to use their feet, our netballers’ deficiency in making good of proper footwork and general poor judgement, are all products of change.

Accepted that technology has played a significant role in this emerging trend, as the I- pods, Mp3’s and 4’s, the cell phones and other electronic devices and gadgets have taken over, but there is still a place for these traditional activities.

It is appalling to see 10 and 11 year olds who cannot carry out basic motor skills. They then enter the secondary school system and the wheel is re-invented.

Linked to this debilitating aspect is the nutrition pattern, as the fast food generation hardly partakes of some good coconut dumplings, breadnut or breadfruit, which are healthy sources of nourishment.

When one looks at the demographic trends and sees the average 16-year-old weighing in excess of 140 lbs, the story is told.

Fewer persons are getting in tune with sports at the Secondary School level, and it is not that there are not opportunities so to do, but a total lack of emphasis on physical activities and its benefits.

And this has little or nothing to do either with one’s social and economic status. I recalled vividly during the latter part of the 70’s and early 80’s at the St. Vincent Grammar School, that many of the top footballers, cricketers and athletes came from what we deemed as “big shot” families. This was not because they had the resources but it was most parents then wanted their children to get involved in some meaningful extra-curricular activities.

As a pre-teen, the word stress was only heard on television or was used by older family members. Today, the smallest child will say he or she is stressed out. And this is understandable, as there is a lack that everyday physical commitment that would normally drain but balance you by creating alertness and wellness.

I don’t expect that we could get right back to where we were, but putting systems in place so that children, even at the pre-school age can restart the process, would be a step in the right direction.

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