Changing lifestyles and working environments make it that children spend increasingly more time at school. Accordingly, the school building and the relevant open space are not only learning but also important living spaces...
Our schools need exercise
Prof. Dr Ingo Froböse was interviewed by the trade magazine Playground@Landscape.
Ingo Froböse is a university professor for prevention and rehabilitation in sports at the Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln (German Sport University Cologne).
The type and intensity of school sports are a constant topic of discussion. The sports scientist Ingo Froböse from Cologne talks about developments, problems and chances children have to face regarding this school subject.
We all have memories regarding school sports and school yards. There have always been students who have tried to avoid participating in the sports lesson as often as possible. And there are those children and youngsters who cannot get enough movement which is offered during the sports education at school. In which way, actually, has the status of school sports and its contents changed?
Playground@Landscape: Mr Froböse, what memories do you have of your sports education at school?
Prof. Dr Ingo Froböse: My experience with school sports was very good, at least during the times in primary school. It is there where I learned to enjoy sports. We used to practise the good "old" sport disciplines, such as gymnastics, athletics, swimming and sometimes also ball games, such as dodge ball. I really loved it.
Later on, at grammar school, it was not so good, because there, the joy and fun of sports was only conveyed partially. Since I did a lot of sports during my spare time, this was not a problem for me. However, I remember that some of my classmates really suffered during the sports lessons and have, to this day, not found access to doing sports. A real shame!
P@L: But why is sports education still important?
Ingo Froböse: School sports is very important, because today even the young pupils spend almost the whole day seated in the lessons. Hence, a short break and movement are indispensable to relieve stress, to get the circulation going and to gather new energy for the following lessons. Because during an active break, children can simply switch off and will have greater concentration afterwards. Besides they become more attentive. It becomes much easier to memorise mathematical formulae after sports than after an English lesson where the students have to sit still and concentrate fully on their work.
In addition, we need to help the children to learn again that sports is fun! Sports lessons should be an instrument to help children to enjoy moving. Because often children spend most of the day sitting: when they come home from school they often spend also their spare time in front of the computer or watching television which, inter alia, leads to civilisation diseases such as overweight and diabetes mellitus.
P@L: What role does the school yard play as a space for exercise?
Ingo Froböse: The schoolyard itself can and must also be used for active breaks. Because after sitting still for 70-90 minutes and extreme concentration, both mind and body need a break. Especially exercise in the fresh air is particularly helpful to gain a clear head and get prepared for the next session. That is why it is very important that the schoolyard offers enough opportunities for movement and physical exercise.
P@L: The latest larger scientific investigation on this topic dates back to 2003. - An indication that school sports is not really taken seriously?
Ingo Froböse: Of course, we should pay much more attention to school sports. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has ordered 3 hours of school sports every week which can hardly be realised due to staff shortage and a lack of sports halls at many schools.
Current scientific investigations are desirable and would be helpful to analyse whether there has been a worsening or improvement of the school sports situation since 2003.
According to the increasing number of obese children or those who suffer from other civilisation diseases, the school sports education must be taken more seriously because it could be used as a means for intervention and prevention. In addition, an important aspect of school sports is to convey fun and joy through movement. This is the only way to achieve a sustainable change of our children's habits.
P@L: Having this in mind, do you find it correct to still evaluate the performance in school sport?
Ingo Froböse: Actually, this question could refer to any school subject. However, I as a former athlete, I propose grading the sports performance. In life, we will always meet people who are doing better or worse than we ourselves do. Just the same, children have to learn dealing with victory and defeat, this is part of our life. In this context, school sports could be an important first practical value. Nevertheless, I prefer to leave the question whether it makes sense or not to demand and assess school achievements to the respective pedagogues.
P@L: Is the sports education programme still determined by "Turnvater Jahn" (German gymnast known as "father of gymnastics") or has it become more modern?
Ingo Froböse: The curriculum has certainly become more modern. Today, the elements of Turnvater Jahn's programme are hardly taught at school. Nevertheless, the allegation is that school sports is no longer up-to-date and its implementation apparently too simple. However, it is certainly far too little to give children a ball and tell them: "Today we are playing football." This type of teaching completely fails the real aim of school sports. The focus should rather be on the motivation for doing more exercise, both in school and outside it, and to develop body perception.
P@L: Why don't we integrate trend sports at school? Trampoline is a popular hype. And what about Calisthenics?
Ingo Froböse: The problem with this is that the curricula are often rather outdated and leave little scope for creativity. Regarding the latest trends such as "jumping fitness", the financial component is certainly the most important aspect, since the school budget would not allow to provide 30 trampolines.
Whereas sports trends such as Calisthenics or Freeletics could be implemented without any major problems. Therefore, the teaching staff should extensively inform themselves and be well motivated to teach the students the new sports trends. It is not advisable to just start training as with this type of sports the body weight becomes a "training device". That means, if a child is overweight, he or she would not only become frustrated but also overstrained.
P@L: In which way has the sportiness in children changed?
Ingo Froböse: In this context, we have definitely observed a negative trend. More and more children spend their leisure time in an inactive way. Usually they neither frolic on the playground nor do they practise sports in the sports club. Therefore, it is no surprise that the sportiness of children has decreased. According to the findings of the study conducted in 2003 more than half of the boys and one third of the girls surveyed were unable to lean forward with their legs straight and to touch the floor with both hands. 86 per cent of the children could not even stand on one leg for only one minute. Also balancing backwards on a balancing beam was a challenging task for one third of the children surveyed. These findings show a sharp trend downward regarding motor skills and physical coordination compared to the values determined in the 1970s which results in a clear need for intervention.
P@L: Are we able to reverse this trend?
Ingo Froböse: Of course, we are. And it is very important to do so. As early as possible, children should be taught the importance of physical exercise. This can, of course, not only be done at school. Ideally, the sports education begins at home. Thus, clean and secure playgrounds and sport facilities are important prerequisites for this.
P@L: What wishes would you have for the school sports education?
Ingo Froböse: First of all, I would like to argue that in the context of school sports the notion of achievement should no longer be promoted. Instead, the focus should be more on the enjoyment and fun of movement and interaction with others. It would indeed be ideal if children would motivate their parents, brothers and sisters or friends to practise more physical exercise and to have fun while they are doing sports together.
The interview was held by Thomas R. Müller (Playground@Landscape)
Picture Prof. Ingo Froböse - Sebastian Bahr