Archives for Month: November 2021

How to Encourage a Positive Sporting Environment

The physical benefits of sport are undeniable. The real news from the past few years has been all the research confirming that taking part in sport or physical activity has a (huge) positive impact on your mental and physical health. Yet the fittest five children in a year 6 class today are less fit than the least fit were 20 years ago.


How physical activity can stimulate positive mental health

Participating in sports has long been on the school curriculum; teachers have long been of the opinion that there are many benefits to taking part in sporting activities, team sports in particular.  But in many schools across the UK it is being squeezed out for that last minute revision or other remedial academic study.

Sport England’s recent published figures have shown that although Covid-19 lockdowns and home schooling reduced the number of children and young people taking part in physical activity, it is by no means as much as many had feared.  Their latest Active Lives Children and Young People Survey found that in the 2019/20 academic year, 45% of children and young people were meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines – doing sport or physical activity for an average of 60 minutes plus per day – just a 2% decrease on the previous academic year.

Sport and physical activity programmes online, such as Joe Wicks’ ‘PE with Joe’ helped enormously in encouraging children and young people to continue with exercising.  But as children and young people return to schools, colleges and universities, how can teachers and parents encourage a positive sporting environment?


Encouraging a positive sporting environment

Public Health England’s publication, ‘Guidance to Increase Physical Activity Among Children and Young People in Schools and Colleges’, sets out 8 key principles to encourage a positive sporting environment:

  1. Develop and deliver multi-component approaches – adopting a ‘whole community’ approach that incorporates curricular learning with culture, ethos, environment and engagement across the school/college community.  Develop a school-to-school support network where you can discuss ideas, challenges and solutions to problems in order to improve attitudes to sport.
  2. Ensure a skilled workforce – ensuring staff have the competence and confidence in providing sport and physical activities. An earlier blog talks about role modelling and mirror neurones: Children are genetically wired to copy their teachers, so engage sportspeople to teach sport and PE. And just because someone may be injured doesn’t mean they can’t take on another role, such as referee or coach.
  3. Engage the students’ voice – giving students a voice and encouraging them to take ‘ownership’ of physical activity that will bring energy and creativity to the activities way beyond what us adults can invent.  Give students responsibility and engage with them, and their families, ask what they’d like to try and take on board what isn’t working.
  4. Create active environments – ensure there is good access to sport and physical activities including equipment, play materials and open spaces.
  5. Offer choice and variety – offering a wider variety of sport and physical activity opportunities, as well as a balance between traditional sports and more fun games. Invite all local sports and activity providers to be listed on your “local clubs” ideas board to share with parents, and invite them in to do taster days.
  6. Embed in the curriculum – increase the amount of physical activity time in the curriculum.
  7. Promote active travel – contributes to children and young people’s physical activity levels.  Always make sure personal safety is a priority and students get home safely after an away game, which also reassures parents and carers.
  8. Embed monitoring and evaluation – consistent, effective evaluation of physical activity.

However, whilst these present useful guidelines, essentially children and young people love playing sports because:

  • The more fun it is, the more engaged they are and the more willing they are to take part.
  • Learning and developing new skills helps them be better at their sport or physical activity and so boosts confidence and performance.
  • They feel good – which is healthy – and develops their fitness, in and out of school.
  • Humans are wired to be active. It’s how we develop important parts of our brain, and helps us achieve more in all walks of life.


Ultimately, physical activity builds the brain so teachers can fill the brain!

Sports for Schools is a social enterprise that works with top athletes from around the UK and Ireland visiting primary schools to inspire and encourage kids of all abilities, and teachers, to be more active.  Our mission is to Activate, Educate, Motivate and Innovate schools and parents through a series of events and workshops.  If you’d like your school or parents to get active, get in touch with us and see how we could help you inspire our next generation.

5 Ways to Talk and Encourage a Positive Body Image for Your Child

There has been a worrying rise in body image consciousness amongst children and young adults.  Sometimes it stems from early childhood years at home or later peer pressure, or the impact of media, especially social media, body image attitudes sets the stage for potential eating disorders as they grow into adulthood.

Figures like 40% to 60% of elementary school girls (age 6 to 12) are concerned about being too fat, or worry about gaining weight, are red flag signals.  Parents and teachers need to address this trend and turn the tide for our future generations.  Young and older children are very impressionable and sometimes, we’re just not careful enough about the words we use in front of our children.  So, what’s the best way to talk about and encourage a positive body image for children?

5 ways to encourage a positive body image

  1. Be a role model – our children copy our behaviours. Our brains have “mirror neurones” that are never switched off that teach us to copy others – whether the good or the bad.  The more negative we are about our own bodies, the more our children will pick up on this and be negative about their bodies.  Watch what you say: avoid using words such as ‘fat’ or ‘diet’ in front of your child; teach them about being comfortable with their bodies, especially as they grow older and their body changes shape.  Always be positive about the clothes they wear, how they look and tell them they are beautiful.
  2. Get physical – exercise is one of the best ways to maintain or lose weight and maintain a body shape.  It also boosts happiness, confidence and self-esteem.  Encourage your child to take part in any form of physical activity, sport at school or out of school sports at clubs or leisure centres. Set an expectation that they take part in at least two physical activities, and then find out which they’d like to try. Take them swimming, roller skating, dancing, or even just a walk.  If they’re worried about how they will look on the pitch or they believe they can’t do a sport because of their size, encourage them to look at examples of professional athletes who come in all shapes and sizes.
  3. Encourage a healthy food relationship – avoid labelling food ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and promote healthy eating.  Involve them in making their packed lunches and teach them about the health benefits of the food choices they are making.  For example, explain how many vitamins are in fruit or how nuts are good for brain activity, give them carrots and fresh veggies rather than cakes.  If they want to eat chips or have a cookie, don’t shame them.  Counteract this with ensuring nutritious, healthy food is always available.
  4. Appearance isn’t everything – explain to your child that the press or social media promotes a certain type of body image for the only reason that they want to sell something: what matters in life is what goes on in our heads, not what we look like. Think of all those amazing and inspiring Paralympians for example (see point 1 about role modelling).  The physical is just the surface of a person, it’s the non-physical attributes that matter in life, such as being kind to others, enjoying what you do, or being smart or funny.
  5. Empty stomach vs full stomach – teach your child how their digestive system works and why we eat when our stomachs feel ‘empty’, and don’t eat when our stomachs feel ‘full’.  Called ‘self-attuned eating’, this practice encourages children to understand that when they feel full, they don’t need to eat anymore.  This helps them feel comfortable about eating food.

As parents, we shape our children’s future from the early days right the way through to adulthood.  Just because we may not have a positive body image about ourselves, we shouldn’t be inflicting that onto our children.  By following the above tips, children will grow up to be confident about how they look, and lead happier, healthier lives in the process.

Sports for Schools is a social enterprise that works with top athletes from around the UK and Ireland visiting primary schools to inspire and encourage kids of all abilities, and teachers, to be more active. Our mission is to Activate, Educate, Motivate and Innovate schools and parents through a series of events and workshops.  If you’d like your school or parents to get active, get in touch with us and see how we could help you inspire our next generation.