Families should ‘swap home school for sport during half-term’

16 February 2021

Parents and their children should make the switch from home schooling to sports training during the upcoming half-term holidays to improve their health and wellbeing, according to an academic from Birmingham City University.

Dr Adam Kelly (pictured), senior lecturer and course leader for sports coaching and physical education at BCU, believes it is vitally important that families plan their own exercise sessions during the break while organised sports activities remain out of bounds as a result of the covid lockdown.

His advice follows calls earlier this month from the UK’s leisure industry body ukactive, and the Youth Sports Trust charity, for government to support parents’ efforts to keep their children healthy while sports clubs are still closed, and for greater clarity on what activities can and cannot take place.

Dr Kelly said: “The positive effects of exercise on both physical and psychological wellbeing have long been known but for the most part people have been much less active during lockdown.

“The reduction in physical activity, especially organised sport, which we have experienced during the last year, has been especially detrimental to children. They generally respond well to structured sport and enjoy the competitiveness and the camaraderie of taking part in activities with others. So the February half-term holiday presents the perfect opportunity for parents and their children to take part in play-based activities together.”

In order to understand the effect of Covid on sport and children’s emotional and physical state, Dr Kelly conducted an international study together with colleagues from Birmingham City University and researchers from universities in the USA and Canada.

They found that almost 80 per cent of parents reported a decrease in their children’s social health and wellbeing as a result of not being able to participate as normal in sporting activity.

Acknowledging that nurturing talent, sharpening skills and instilling a competitive spirit in athletes will continue to play a big part in sport after the pandemic, Kelly encouraged parents to take a more light hearted approach to developing their own children’s sporting progress.

He concluded: “Like teachers, sports coaches are skilled, dedicated and well-qualified people.

“I know some parents are finding it tough enough teaching schoolwork so I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly be able to turn their children into sporting superstars! The emphasis should be on enjoyment. Sport can be an avenue for fun as well as fitness.”

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