Globally, there is a LOT of focus on sport. We have a large sports section in almost every newspaper, thousands of different national and international sports competitions going on each year like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games or World Cup and each child grows up doing compulsory Physical Education lessons for many years at school. This is all, especially the latter, very important – encouraging and advertising fitness is definitely a good thing, and for a younger generation that is becoming less physically fit and more technologically fit doing sport is absolutely necessary.
Although this is true, and is likely to have been the initial intention of the sporting industry, overtime things have changed. Take sports events like the Olympics for example – hugely advertised and broadcasted across the whole world, but what they are showing is not a group of people coming together to represent their country in a fun or enjoyable game of sport, it’s a group of people coming together to win a title or trophy. Having watched many of these events on the television, participants really do push their bodies right to the very limits – sometimes quite horrible injuring themselves – in order to win the gold. And with millions of people’s opinions of you hanging in the balance you really do want to go for it.
I’ve noticed this kind of behavior at school with sports days and football games. We had our annual sports day a few weeks ago, and very little people were participating with smiles on their faces or having a great time, they were running, jumping and throwing for the win, knowing how the fellow students would feel if they lost. ‘Do it for the team’, ‘Do it for the house’ we were all told in assembly before taking part (each student is in one of five school ‘houses’), and the teachers take this day very seriously, so every kid knows if they lose they’re guaranteed to be looked down upon.
Something that shocked me was that during the day there was a group of girls who are known to smoke on school site walk in the distance up the school field to their usual ‘spot’. The teachers did not interfere, instead they sat at their ‘points desk’ and shouted through a megaphone – ‘not today ladies, go somewhere else with your cigarettes’. These girls were 13/14/15 years old, so smoking is totally illegal, but because it was ‘sports day’ and the points being added up were more important than stopping these girls from destroying their bodies the teachers did nothing.
I thought about how sports and the focus on winning do contribute to the dismissal to a lot of other things too – an example is the newspaper; sometimes there can literally be around 20 pages dedicated to sports and putting the winner of the latest race/game on a giant media pedestal (when the losers of course get no mention at all), when all this space could be used to talk about how to really get healthy and fit. There could be a section for parents on how to support their kids to stay healthy, or information on getting fit the fun way.
Other than some few women’s magazines, there doesn’t seem to be any of this in the media and as a teenager it seems that the only way to get fit is to take part in serious, body-damaging sports that you have to win.
Both teens and adults need to be educated on how fitness doesn’t just mean winning a race, it’s how we eat, what we do during our day and physical activity does play a part but it should be within reason and not abusive to our body.
All of the blogs on From Our Eyes have been written by young people. They are about the kind of issues and problems teenagers face on a constant basis, as well as worldwide epidemics that not only youth, but EVERYONE experiences day to day.