A sporting chance

All the rumours are true. PE has a very small place in the primary curriculum. E has an hour every week but I think some of that must be to get them all changed. So the school encourages them all to run around at lunchtime in the playground each day to make up for it.

Each term we’ve had a letter home about optional football classes run by Soccer Star Coaching, that take place on Friday nights at the local secondary school. E had no interest in this the first term and was so tired I would have had second thoughts anyway. But when I offered it at the start of the second term I didn’t expect her to be so keen. She was thrilled by the prospect so we signed her up.

First up, to buy some trainers. S went to the supermarket and picked up some plain white ones which were inexplicably labelled for boys. *rolls eyes* And so to the first session. She loved it from the off, running about and occasionally kicking the ball. Now we’re five weeks in and she’s been through her first penalty shootout, the enthusiasm is still there. But here’s what I noticed. The first thing is that she’s one of about three girls in a group of maybe thirty children. She’s not at the stage where this has bothered her yet, and a couple of the boys are in her class so she’s happy enough.

The next is that we clearly haven’t practiced football with her very much. There have been occasional kickabouts and the like but it’s not a serious pastime. Many of the boys have obviously been spending a lot of time with their dads in the garden.  E is also quite polite in games and won’t take the ball off another player because “he’s playing with it.”

All of this resonated with me as I’m currently reading Anna Kessel’s Eat, Sweat, Play. It’s about women in sport and how society doesn’t encourage women to participate, or celebrate exercise – messy exercise. It’s a fascinating read and full of yet more barriers that we still have to overcome. The school element is important and it has been pointed out that children don’t do enough exercise from an early age which translates into teenagehood and adulthood. But also I remember being actively discouraged from sport from PE teachers at school, who were only interested in the netball team. God forbid the rest of us might be encouraged to do something, even walking. No it was ritual humiliation and sarcasm.

So, despite E not being v good at football, and I’m not sure she’s particularly good at her dancing class either, the fact that she enjoys them so much is key to me. There is a female coach at football and the whole thing is very inclusive for both sexes; there is a competitive element but it’s in a sporting way. We also took her swimming this afternoon, something she’s taken to very slowly, but there she was having fun and actually swimming in the pool today. She joins in with my yoga if I do it at home when she’s about, and she watches me go for a run each day. There is much giggling. I figure if I can give her a positive role model for enjoying sport then that’s half the battle.

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