Sport, Euro 2022 and inspiring a generation

Do you remember the slogan for London 2012?

Inspire a generation.

Part of London hosting the Olympic games was that it should have a legacy, in terms of its transformation of the local area, but also in participation rates of sport. All those cyclists, swimmers, athletes and gymnasts were supposed to inspire us all to get off our backsides and get active. There was certainly a spike in cycling for a while, but that has tailed off.

Can England’s historic victory at Euro 2022 get that back on track?

Lionesses, Football, England, European champions, Euros 2022

A recent news report said that, while London 2012, was undoubtedly a wonderful thing, it failed in its aim to get Brits active and keep them active.

The most recent government figures show that 34% of men and 43% of women are ‘not active enough for good health’. That means they don’t do the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity (eg walking, gentle swimming or gentle cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (eg running, fast swimming or football) recommended in a week. In addition, 21% of men and 25% of women are classed as physically inactive. That means they do less than 30 minutes of moderate activity a week.

As someone who is very active, I can’t get my head round that. A quarter of women don’t even manage one half-hour walk a week.

Of course, there are reasons for this – such as illness, disability and caring responsibilities. Sometimes people are just too busy to exercise. But a long day at work and rushing around in the car after the kids doesn’t count as physical activity, unless you actually do a physical job, such as gardening or construction.

Children and young people aged 5-18 should do 60 minutes of either moderate or intense physical activity a day, which includes something as simple as walking to school, as well as PE classes and sport outside school. In 2020-21, 44.6% of 5-16 year olds were meeting this target. So more than half of all children are not physically active enough.

What happened to Inspire a generation?

We’ve got another chance to inspire ourselves and our children now, with England’s historic victory in Euro 2022, as well as the Commonwealth Games, both held in England and both getting extensive TV coverage. How good is it to see women’s football on prime time TV on the BBC?!

Take the time to watch sport on TV with your kids. Talk about what they enjoy and what they would like to try. Opportunities exist everywhere and they don’t need to be expensive. Grassroots football, rugby and athletics are all coached by volunteers and are all cheap.

If girls are inspired to play football, you can look for a girls’ team. But many girls also start out playing football and rugby for boys’ teams. This works well for the youngest girls, who are just starting out at the same time as the boys, not trying to play catch-up at the age of 11. Girls can now actually play for boys’ teams right up to 18 (although they will often want to move at around the age of 14, when boys get physically bigger). This post by Lioness Beth Mead, who won both the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament at the Euros, is an interesting insight into grassroots football for girls.

You can find a local grassroots football club – girls, boys, men, women, disability, older people etc – on the FA website.

(I couldn’t find out the age at which girls should stop playing for boys’ rugby teams, but it is certainly acceptable through primary school.)

But the very best way to inspire kids to get active is to have active role models – their parents. If you spend all your spare time watching boxsets, it’s likely your kids will too. But if they see you running, cycling, playing football, going to dance classes or going to the gym and if you take them on long walks at the weekend, they are far more likely to do these things themselves.

My parents weren’t active, but I usually had one or more sports on the go as a child. At the age of 20, I started running and I never looked back. My husband and I inspire each other to be active and we’ve inspired our kids too. (Well before we had kids, he said that he would ensure our future children did sport, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.) Because being active is the norm in our family.

Manchester marathon, Selfie, Running, Runner, Medal

In addition to the running, we go on at least a couple of walks a day. Generally only 30 minutes at a time – but we are doing more in that one walk than inactive adults are doing in a week. The kids will take themselves off for walks two or three times a day, either with us or without us.

Between years 8 and 11, my younger son was doing sport literally every day of his life – football, rugby and athletics. Since then, he’s learned the power of rest and recovery and that has become four or five days a week. He trains or competes in athletics three times a week and goes to the gym three or four days a week. Whether he is on a rest day or a training day, he walks.

My daughter still dances three times a week and trains in athletics whenever her dance classes allow it – usually once a twice a week.

My eldest is the least active of the kids, but he cycles to and from work every day and, rather than go walking as a leisure activity, he walks as a way of getting around. Two or three times a week, he will do a five-mile walk to walk his girlfriend’s house.

I have every faith that my kids will continue to be active well into adulthood and that they will inspire their own families to do the same. If you or your family aren’t as active as you would like, take those first steps. I know I’ve said it before, but parkrun is the most welcoming organisation and you definitely don’t have to run! Plenty of people walk and it spurs them on to do more and start to enjoy physical activity.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s never too late to make a change – and to inspire the next generation.

Parkrun, Kids, Sons, Daughter

The kids doing parkrun back in the day

Author: Sarah Mummy

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4 Comments

  1. I think the Euros win will do good things for girls in sport. I much preferred hockey, netball and tennis over football, so I’d not have wanted to do more football at school (we only did it for 8 weeks each year in year 10 and 11 as minor sports, although we used to all play all sports out on the green with all the kids from our road). I was a really active kid – dancing, plus lots of sports, right up to getting married, then changed to just squash, then dancing until having N, then back to dancing again until getting injured – then covid happened just as I was getting back to it. The OH has a physical job so he doesn’t do any other activity, other than the occasional short kick around in the garden with N or bike ride. Luckily N is really active, because apart from my once a week tennis, the occasional kick of a football at N in goal, and some table tennis when there’s no wind, I do nothing. I hate walking with no purpose, I find it really dull walking in the fields, and the roads (in town I could walk daily but I have to drive to get anywhere where we live). Once Covid’s a forgotten thing I’ll hopefully get back to dancing, and I need to get back to my stepping/dancing at home.

    I blame blogging for my inactivity – a sedentary day job, no need to get out of my seat, then blogging in the evening. It’s getting in or out of a habit. By the end of the summer I’m aiming to be back to my daily 15k+ steps again, because it does make me feel so much better. Maybe when I get fitter again, I’ll get back on the squash court – if I can persuade N to. The commonwealth games has definitely got me wanting to play that again, it’s just the effort – finding and booking a court, digging out my squash racket from where it might be in the roof, and getting into town.

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    • I really do hope the Euros will make a big difference for girls and sport. Our school didn’t offer football. If it had, I would definitely have given it a try! I liked and was reasonably good at hockey and athletics, but didn’t like netball, tennis or rounders at all.
      I hope you can get back to your dancing and your daily 15k steps again soon. It would be great to give squash a go again. too.
      Our whole family is always very happy to walk without a purpose – the walking is purpose in itself! If I’m on my own, I listen to music, and if we’re out together, we talk. I blog a lot less than I used to now, so that doesn’t affect my activity levels!

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  2. We can only hope it inspires more people to get active and lasts. I agree that we need to change as parents to show our kids a more active lifestyle. That’s why I always tell Munchkin about my runs hoping one day he will join me. Great post

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    • Thanks very much! It is so important to let our kids know what we are doing. I do hope she will join you one day. My daughter, who is 16, has informed me she’s doing a half marathon next year! My eldest, who is 21, did one at 17 too.

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