Australian kids can’t kick a ball

Australia is a nation of sports lovers, both on the field and in the stands, but according to a new study, our reputation could be on the line as it’s been found that sporting skills among kids are on the decline.

Sports skills are on the decline for Australian kids

Image: Flickr/Derrick Mealiffe

You could blame the iPad or our obsession with technology or computer games or TV or your kids’ new fixation with becoming the next Angry Birds champion, but according to a new study by Victoria University PhD student, James Rudd, sporting skills are on the decline among kids between the ages of 9 and 15.

We’re a proud nation of sportspeople, aren’t we? We spend our weekends at the footy, we watch the tennis long into the evening on the telly before we drag ourselves to bed to get at least a little bit of sleep before work the next morning and we get behind any sport Australia represents, whether that be swimming or soccer or netball or Iron Man championships. But Rudd says while we are sports enthusiasts, Australia is “in danger of becoming a country of spectators who watch sport rather than participate in it”.

Catching or throwing a ball might have been the norm on the school ground in what my friends’ kids like to call “the olden days”, but it seems that now things like ball skills and even running and jumping are skills that kids are lacking.

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In Rudd’s study, he found the ball skills of kids aged between 9 and 15 have dropped 20-30 points in the last 30 years, while 80 per cent of children aged 6 to 10 have below-average running, jumping, hopping, leaping and sliding skills.

Probably one of the most surprising takings from the study was that 90 per cent of Australian kids perform sporting activities below average compared to American kids. That’s a bit of a hit to the ego of Australian sports lovers. So, what should we do?

“At present only one in three children, and one in 10 young people, meet the current physical activity guidelines for children of 60 minutes of physical activity every day,” said Rudd. “[And] fewer than one in three children and young people are meeting the guideline for not more than two hours of screen-based entertainment every day,” he said.

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So, how can we encourage our kids to be more active?

  • Walk to school: Where possible, organise your kids to walk in a group to school. That way they’re not alone and they get some physical exercise in the morning.
  • Enrol kids in a team sport: Not all kids like sport, but there are physical activities that can appeal to a variety of personality types. From orienteering to rowing, rock climbing to dance, check in with your child and sign them up for a team sport they’ll enjoy and get them moving.
  • Make it a family activity: Instead of heading to the movies as a family or going out for lunch, why not pack a picnic and go for a bush walk. Sure, the kids are bound to complain about it at first, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a go and see what they think. They just might enjoy it.

Is Australia becoming a nation of spectators? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

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