Go Play Outside

Children are naturally drawn to active play outdoors: it allows them to explore their environment, develop muscle strength and coordination, and gain self-confidence”. Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®

Today, more than ever the opportunity to ‘go play outside’ is challenged by access to phones, computers and a myriad of other technical devices.

I recall one afternoon while facilitating afterschool sports at a previous school, where one of my students, Sarah*, who was a perennial avoider of all things sporty, was having difficulty deciding which sport to select. Much like St Catherine’s, this School had an abundance of sports for her and other students to choose from. To lend my support, I suggested she try Volleyball. Her reply was,

“I’ve tried volleyball and did not like it very much!” 

I was quite impressed she had experienced volleyball and pressed her where and when she had played.

“On Nintendo, it was not fun.”

Nintendo? That certainly does not cut it. As a teacher of physical education, I revolt in the idea of playing volleyball on Nintendo as being a true sporting experience.

Not so surprisingly, recent studies highlight the declining numbers of hours that children play outside compared to their mothers. A study by Rhonda Clements revealed “that children today spend considerably less time outdoors than their mothers did as children”. The study reveals several fundamental reasons for this decline, including “dependence on television and digital media, and concerns about crime and safety”.

Observing our students taking an active role in sports and enjoying the outdoors is truly rewarding. There is nothing better than seeing an excited student go home in the evening, having scored a goal, taken a catch, or hit a home run to win the game for her House. You simply cannot download an App for that.

The Barbreck House sport system challenges our students across many sports and they display an amazing loyalty towards their House. I once remember a parent greeting her daughter after school with the news of a holiday in America, to which the student replied “But, I will miss House Cross Country!”

As an educator, it is beyond rewarding to observe such strong evidence of the love and commitment our students show to their sport.

Barbreck students are fortunate to have many opportunities in their primary years to explore a variety of sports that will be with them for years to come.

The variety of sports on offer at Barbreck and a vibrant House system ensure that all girls leave Junior School with an understanding and appreciation of a large variety of sports. Whether it is Soccer, Netball, Athletics or Orienteering; it does not really matter. Ultimately, fostering a love of physical activity is the outcome we want for our young students.

A key element of any sport is physical fitness. It is not often until later years that we appreciate our own personal fitness. However, habits learnt in the primary years stay with us for our life.

In a study by Thomas W. Rowland and Patty S. Freedson, it was found that,” the best primary strategy for improving the long-term health of children and adolescents through exercise was to create a lifestyle pattern of regular physical activity that will carry over to the adult years.”

This suggests that it is of primary importance to discover behavioral approaches that will be effective in increasing activity levels of children.

As a physical educator it gives me great pleasure to run into ex-students in sporting environments, enjoying themselves with friends and more importantly, keeping fit through their activity.

Once you have learnt to swim properly, you do not forget, and it may be years later that you call upon that skill to help you maintain your physical fitness.

Mr Tom Crebbin

Junior School Coordinator of Co-curricular Sport

Clements R. (2004) Playworkers: An investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Google Scholar

The Benefits of Outdoor Play. (2017, August 8). Retrieved from http://www.fisher-price.com/en_AU/playtime/parenting/articlesandadvice/articledetail.html?article=tcm:175-20482-16

Thomas W. Rowland, Patty S. Freedson (1994) Physical Activity, Fitness, and Health in Children: A Close Look, Google Scholar

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