Sport promotes positive self-esteem, teamwork and work ethic, but a local PE teacher says physical activity is becoming less of a priority in our digital driven lifestyles.

“The accessibility of digital devices, such as iPads, has become too easy, and children will sit on them all day if given the chance,” Lake Illawarra Primary School Physical Education teacher Karen Hendriks said. “It is up to a partnership between the schools and parents to encourage participation in sports.”

According to the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey into Physical Activity, statistics show children aged five to seven spend around two hours a day involved in screen based activities, compared to one and a half hours of physical activity.

Some concerns for teachers are the decline in students’ posture and the threat a slowed metabolism will have on their health because they are not getting around and moving. These issues can often carry onto adulthood if not addressed early.

“The problem is, if children get into the habit of not exercising and they don’t have the skills, they will grow to avoid physical activity,” Ms Hendriks said.

To tackle this, schools, such as Lake Illawarra Primary School, have grown with the New South Wales curriculum specifically to encourage their students in physical activity.

“When sport sessions are organised well, students respond positively and they want to learn how to play soccer, volley ball and other sports properly,” Ms Hendriks said.

Schools now provide the basic skills for students interested in pursuing extra curricular activity. At least three hours a week are dedicated to teaching students vital skills and basic sporting techniques such as under arm throws, and different ways to kick and catch a ball.

The sessions are also sequential and build off skills learnt in the previous session so all students are kept at the same learning pace.

“If you haven’t learnt to be a part of a team, a lot of children think it’s all about them. They have to be the best, and if they’re not they lose interest,” Ms Hendricks said.

Sport interest declines when students are faced with high pressures of competition and not being good enough.

“We won’t let them choose their own teams,” Hendriks said. “We don’t want a last person standing because that’s psychologically damaging. There is more of a focus on fun, rather than competition,”

As a student managing a balance of representing the Illawarra for the Junior Stingrays Ruby League, Natalie Henderson said sport will develop a hard-work ethic in students.

“You can be knocked down by the coaches and for not standing out,” Ms Henderson said.

“But it has helped me with persistence and never giving up, and I can apply that academically and mentally.”

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