Sports is important in a student’s life, not only to stay healthy and to be physically fit – their importance goes beyond this. It has the ability to embed moral values such as team spirit, sportsmanship, friendliness, hard work, compassion, empathy, respect, forgiveness etc. It also supports the development of personal characteristics such as communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Through team sports, we can further enhance our social well-being. These are moral values and personal characteristics that are essential to thrive in today’s modern world.
The importance of sports and its impact on health cannot be overstated. As well as improving our stamina, strength, flexibility, coordination and agility, it can also help improve our resistance to disease. One of the best definitions of HEALTHY came from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948, which is a state of “complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In the current pandemic, this has never been so pertinent. Tight restrictions and the introduction of SOPs has led to a decrease in social interactions, opportunities to be physically active and like never before, mental health has been bought to the fore. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, can we turn to sports and physical activity, to really drive forward our health kick?
Maybe not many are familiar with Pierre de Frédy. He was born in Paris on 1 January 1863, into an aristocratic family and as he bloomed and flourished, became an academic and studied a broad range of topics, most notably education and history. He developed a deep interest in his education, and in particular on physical education and the role of sport in schooling. In his twenties he moved to Rugby in England and whilst watching sport being played on the fields he noted “organised sport can create moral and social strength”. Whilst developing his theory of physical education he would often refer to the works of the ancient Greeks, and noted how physical training simultaneously encouraged physical and intellectual development. Baron de Coubertin, as he was later known, used his ideals to create the modern Olympic games, where it was a vehicle to promote an opportunity for amateurs to compete, with a sacred truce promoting peace and an understanding across cultures, thereby reducing the threat of war. Coubertin expressed this ideal;
‘The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.’
The first Olympics, I Olympiad, were held in Athens in 1896. Since then, the Olympics have highlighted Coubertin’s ideals time and time again. There have been many great examples over the years of wonderful performances, typifying the original motto; Citius, Altius, Fortius (faster, higher, stronger). I am sure we can all recall a performance that inspired us to go and try something new, getting us off our couch and out training, if nothing else to become healthier versions of ourselves.
Being physically active triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel happier and more relaxed as well. It helps us to feel confident, helps with concentration and aids with the release of stress and feelings of depression. It can also assist our sleep patterns, helping to sleep faster and deeper. All great attributes to support our work and study habits.
Now, more than ever, we can argue that teaching PE in schools is at its highest need. Teaching our young people about the lifelong benefits of exercise, to stay healthy in an ever changing 21st century is crucial. Our students need to be encouraged to find their preferred niche through exposure to a variety of different activities, whether individual or team related. Inspiring our young people to be physically active will have untold benefits as the future unfolds before them.
For our society, locally, nationally and internationally to come through this pandemic, we have to ensure we support and guide each other for the benefit of all. This year the Olympic committee, added one word to Coubertin’s original motto. The new Olympic motto now reads: “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”.