A better life: It's child's play

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Encouraging kids to play and love sport is not just good for their body, it's good for their mind and can teach them important life skills too.
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Dulwich Pudong engages all students in physical activities, providing a broad, holistic learning program.

The importance of learning ‘physical literacy’

Dulwich Pudong Head of Primary PE Rachel Crossland talks about the importance of sports, and how to raise the interest of students on sports.

Q: When we talk about physical health in schools, apart from the PE program, is there any other aspect that will fall into this area?

A: Health has many broad definitions. All too often people associate the traditional health services within schools as the school nurse, school counsellor or the external services who support through difficult situations. At Dulwich Pudong, we are increasingly finding opportunities to change this approach to integrate a variety of health-focused initiatives and services. Health is seen as an integral element of wellbeing and the PE program reinforces the experiences, attitudes and dispositions that enable students to flourish. Our approach to physical health is to create a PE program that emphasizes physical literacy. Our goal is to enable students to find fulfilment through physical literacy. In order to promote a lifelong engagement in physical activity, it is necessary to not only develop individual competence, but also enable students to develop confidence and social/emotional skills through performance.

Rachel Crossland is head of Primary PE at Dulwich Pudong.

Q: There are always some students who are not physically active and would like to focus more on academic study, what can their parents and the school do to encourage them to be more active?

A: The key to engaging all students in physical activity is to provide a broad, holistic learning program. The PE and sports program provides a rich and varied pathway for all students to develop their passions and interests. For example, students are exposed to a variety of different individual physical activities and team sports.

Q: What should a well-balanced school physical health program consist of?

A: Successful programs should be inclusive, differentiated and adaptive and have opportunities for students to succeed at all levels. There should be an adequate level of challenge within a supportive environment where students are knowingly pushed to break out of their comfort zones, and where failure is embraced sensitively. Activities should be designed to harness students’ creativity and inspire them.

Dulwich Pudong students at a fencing competition

Q: Should the recommended period of time and content of physical exercise, activities and recess be adjusted for different age groups?

A: As children grow and develop, their physical activity often becomes less organic and more organized. In the Early Years, children should be encouraged to find physical challenge through play and these opportunities should be frequent and built into their daily program. Early Years PE lessons develop the skills practiced habitually during play and include activities that cross the midline; bilateral integration skills, core stability, planning and sequencing are examples.

Q: Considering the multi-cultural student backgrounds in an international school, how do you deal with gender, nationality and sporting preferences?

A: Dulwich Pudong actively promotes broad and balanced programs to consider all 43 nationalities represented at the college. We also seek to deconstruct myths and stereotypes in sports and physical activity. The number of girls regularly participating in competitive and recreational football is one example.

(The article is contributed by Rachel Crossland, head of Primary PE at Dulwich Pudong.)

Focus: Think more, achieve more, be more

As spring comes we begin to feel the sun on our faces and the grasp of winter slowly falling away. It’s an exciting time for our young athletes, as those hard winter months of early morning and late night sessions in the cold are gone and the promise of warmer weather invigorates the soul. Not just for students but for teachers, coaches and parents too!

At the British International School Shanghai, we have a thriving sports program which caters for all levels — whether participation is your aim or you wish to become an elite athlete — our coaches and staff will be able to guide you on your sporting journey. The summer term provides many additional sporting opportunities, through our ECA and BISCAP Programs. 

Our Under 11 FOBISIA teams will begin training to build up their skills to compete in this prestigious competition in Phuket in May.   

Junior and lower secondary school-aged basketball teams will begin training for the Nord Anglia Global Games, which will also take place in May. Senior football and athletics teams will complete their training in preparation for the season finals. 

It is also very encouraging to see the students and teachers maintaining their healthy lifestyle by attending fitness classes and setting personal goals for the summer months. This is one of the best ways to get you motivated and do some “spring cleaning” of the soul. The BISS PE teachers, along with some of our higher level athletes and our Olympic champion and high performance director, Marlon Devonish, have put some tips together. Firstly, it’s about getting excited and enjoying exercise — so try to.

• Establish a routine

It’s important to make time for a healthy lifestyle. So think carefully about your daily schedule and plan carefully.

• Get to the start line

Nothing will happen unless you make it happen. The only motivation you need in a fitness class, whether it is a BISS Lions training session or spinning at your local gym, is to show up.

• Enjoy the moment

Find something you enjoy, whether it’s walking your dog in the mornings with your parents or part of the eight hours a week of swim training, it’s really important to love what you do.

At BISS Puxi, our philosophy is “Be Ambitious” — think more, achieve more, be more.

(The article is contributed by Thomas Hitchings, director of sport and community activities at BISS Puxi, )

Thomas Hitchings, director of sport and community activities at BISS Puxi, coaches students.

It really is about how you play the game

Is an over-emphasis on winning preventing your child from making it in the world of sport?

If you had asked me to write this article 10 to 15 years ago, I would probably be giving you an entirely different perspective. However, there is a huge shift happening in sports culture in the way professionals, schools, sports clubs and indeed individual sports approach the introduction, development and retention of young and talented athletes around the world.

Although it seems perhaps alien to the older generation, it is backed up by comprehensive research and is driving a massive cultural shift around the world, making and forcing the world of sport for the young a far more attractive, fun and child-centered place to be. 

Matt Sleep is director of Sport at Harrow International School Shanghai.

In short, the world of sport is realizing that, unless we effectively introduce, develop and retain young people’s involvement in sport and activity at all levels, the importance of sport and activity is going to decline.

“Winning,” and it’s close brother “losing,” have always been an accepted, though divisive, reality. But it is all too often, even those elite athletes who have had millions of dollars spent on them, preparing their bodies and minds for the pressures of competition, struggle to cope emotionally and psychologically with winning and losing. Ask any athlete, PE teacher or coach: Unless you are extremely lucky, you will need to deal with losing far more on the dangerous path to the top than you ever will with winning and it is how we deal with and learn from our failures that ultimately decides our overall success.

We have now begun to realize that, in extreme cases, we have in the past been asking children as young as eight or nine (or younger), to process and deal with extreme circumstances and pressures in sporting competition that even a fully grown adult and highly trained professional struggles to cope with: emotional, volatile and pressurised situations.

As a father myself., I would not like to see my son face these pressures.

These are situations and pressures which if they were played out in other contexts at home would verge on child abuse! 

After all, in order to create a winner you have to create a loser, and the damage to confidence and self-esteem, of those on the negative side, is simply no longer acceptable nor sustainable.  

(The article is contributed by Matt Sleep, director of Sport at Harrow International School Shanghai.)

Building self-confidence for a better future

Participation in sports at school is a rewarding pastime for many children and is an activity many parents want to encourage their children to explore throughout their years at school.

Not only does playing sports help build mind and body, it also teaches students life lessons in determination, resiliency and teamwork. Concordia International School Shanghai has several encouraging ways for students to discover the rewards of playing sports. 

Sean Dwyer is High school physical education teacher and baseball coach at Concordia International School Shanghai.

Starting in preschool, the PE curriculum engages students in play and helps them better develop the movement and coordination skills they will use as they move through each grade level. As our young learners advance in their physical education, the elementary school offers after-school programs that introduce students to organized sports like basketball and tennis. 

The chance to engage in a wider range of sports continues in the middle school. Here students can participate in a variety of competitive sports including volleyball, badminton, track and soccer. 

Students in Concordia’s high school have increased opportunities to participate in school sports. Students are able to compete and learn from other teams from across the world. 

For parents who are still not sure of the benefits of sports participation, here are a few compelling arguments.

Sports promotes good mental health by providing an outlet for physical and mental stress. Research shows that exercise increases brain function and academic achievement. Sport also fosters teamwork and collaborative skills children need to strengthen their relationships and their competitiveness in future job markets.

Sports includes more movement and less screen time in a child’s day, allowing them to engage in healthier leisure activities that can build up their self-confidence and avoid the risks of video game addiction.

(The article is contributed by Sean Dwyer, High school physical education teacher and baseball coach at Concordia International School Shanghai.)

Go on, get out and enjoy that spring sunshine

It’s the season to enjoy the sunshine and unplug! It is a great time for visiting a park, finding a public track or hiking to allow time for play. Meet up with friends and family for some outdoor fun recreation. I would like to encourage students to join a new team or to try an interesting hobby. Here at SSIS our after-school programs starting in April will offer CISSA basketball, track and field, and softball. 

Team sports are a great way to exercise, develop new skills and lasting friendships with other teammates. Our senior school boys and girls soccer teams will put their teamwork to the test as they travel to Guangzhou for their season ending ACAMIS tournament. We are currently running the second session of our developmental basketball program.

Katrina Senaratna is director of Sports and Activities at Shanghai Singapore International School.

We will start our Sabre Saturday Programs next week. Participants will be able to get moving with fundamental gymnastics, parkour, dance sports and cheerleading. If the team setting and organized sports are not the best fit then Shanghai has many other opportunities such as rock climbing, cycling or even a boxing or exercise class. 

I’m always doing my best to encourage the students to take risks and try something new. As they pursue these interests the physical attributes go hand in hand with positive social and emotional well-being. 

Get out and play! 

(The article is contributed by Katrina Senaratna, director of Sports and Activities at Shanghai Singapore International School.)

Why not go ahead and give soccer a try?

There are so many benefits to be gained through playing soccer. Firstly, the benefits of watching soccer together as a family promotes family bonding, increases focus and attention, enhances social interactions and allows friendly competition.

In addition, playing sport, and in particular football, helps children stay fit and healthy. Playing soccer is great exercise that improves cardiovascular health, increases coordination, improves strength, and enhances flexibility. It involves teamwork and all players have to work together as a team in order to be successful.

Teamwork is a skill needed to be successful in school, work and family life.

Angela Smith is Stoke City Football Club International Ambassador.

The sport improves gross motor skills, especially important for children that are weak in this area. It helps strengthen core muscles which allows more physical activity and then the children are more healthy! Playing sport also boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. 

As soccer is a team sport, it requires players to communicate through a variety of ways. Players also have to learn how to work together and communicate effectively in order to be successful. Soccer involves a great deal of focus and attention.

Competition creates motivation and drive; when children are motivated and driven, they become more successful students and adults. Sport also involves ethics and responsibility.

We have a variety of programs run by Premier League Club Stoke City. Anyone can attend at weekends. Why not come along and try?

(The article is contributed by Angela Smith, Stoke City Football Club International Ambassador.)

Technology can be a tool for better health

Sport is vital for the whole development of a child. It offers the chance for children to enhance their physical and social skills. It teaches them about winning and losing, about how to develop strategies for winning, cooperation, problem-solving and teamwork, and studies have shown that participating in sports improves students’ attentiveness in class. 

That’s why sports programs in schools are so important. At YCIS, our PE classes offer a safe environment in which students can really push themselves, and sports takes them outside the four walls of a classroom, physically and mentally. 

However, with the onset of technology, including iPads and mobile phones, more and more young people fall into a sedentary lifestyle with days filled with texting and selfies. Exercise is vital for the complete development of a child, so it’s of utmost importance to find ways to inspire our children to get up and move.

Matt Uffindall (left), Secondary PE teacher coordinator and athletic director, plays soccer.

We have found a surprising answer for our community with regard to a super positive use for technology: Using the mobile phone itself to boost physical activity!

We utilize an app called Sworkit, which gives basic workout ideas, sets times and reminders to do the workouts and all of the lessons on the app are self-regulating and can be done at home. Both students and staff alike are using it and finding it very motivating. 

Another way in which technology is changing sport is that there has been a massive shift in the types of sports boys and girls are playing. Team games are becoming less important as there has been an enormous growth in personal fitness. Our sports faculty now offers even more co-curricular activities, so students get to go beyond traditional sports and discover new interests and new ways to keep fit, and in PE classes, we are looking at individual sports and sports that support life-long participation. These are ones that are simpler and don’t need a lot of equipment.

And we offer more individual training plans and are bringing technology into the curriculum itself. We use the iPads wherever we can, from “self-taught” lessons where students scan QR codes to access activities, to practices and drills and athletics. Technology allows us to really get the students on board and access sports at their level. 

(The article is contributed by Matt Uffindall is Secondary PE teacher coordinator and athletic director at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai.)

Tips for keeping kids active and interested

“Loving sports will teach children vital life skills — discipline, motivation, commitment, and cooperation,” says Laurie Zelinger, a clinical child psychologist in Cedarhurst, New York. 

However, sometimes it can be challenging to raise the interest of students on sports or keep them motivated.

• It starts at home

You are your child’s most important role model. This includes in sport. Watch sport at home with your child, you can encourage a positive sporting attitude by cheering on your team for their efforts, even if they’re losing badly.

When your child comes home after playing sport, ask her if she enjoyed herself before asking if she won.

• Watch others

Take your child to see others play a sport and how much fun they can have. This can be a professional game or watching their peers participating.

• Read and watch 

Get books and watch movies about sports with your child. Often, children are interested in what they are familiar with and as they learn more about a sport, it might pique their interest to start or continue playing. 

Danielle Kemp is Lower School PE teacher at Hangzhou International School.



• Take a break

Give them plenty of free time to follow their own interests outside of sports. Too much emphasis on playing sports at a young age can put children on the early path to sports burnout.

• They don’t want to play

It can help to find out why. Maybe they are not feeling as good as they want to be or not as good as others, not having enough fun or feeling bored, not liking the coach or other players. We can’t make our kids care as much as we do about any specific thing, but we can provide plenty of opportunities for them to catch the bug.

• Play with your child

Not just to teach skills but to just have fun. You don’t always have to be coaching your child on how to tackle or kick. Sometimes, it’s better to be silly.

• Mix it up

Choose a new sport and learn it together with your child.

• Familiar faces

Look for opportunities for them to play on teams with their friends.

• Take a break

Give them plenty of free time to follow their own interests outside of sports. 

(The article is contributed by Danielle Kemp, Lower School PE teacher at Hangzhou International School.)


Being on a team is a great way to learn life skills

Over the past several years, the world has seen a decrease in the number of students who participate in sports once they reach middle school age. This occurs for a variety of reasons. 

However, at SCIS, our athletic department has made middle school sports more about getting students involved in team sports and less about the competition. One way to raise the interest in sports is to create a fun environment focused on skill development and improving knowledge of the game. Each team at SCIS focuses on skill development and ensuring that students are having fun. Middle school teams at SCIS do not focus on the final score during weekly games, but rather on the skills that will help prepare them for high school sports. By not keeping score, we give students the opportunity to develop skills in a safe, fun environment, without any added pressure.

Matthew Ruf is PE teacher at Shanghai Community International School.

Many students have an interest in a single sport and enjoy being dedicated to that sport, but research shows that multi-sport athletes are more likely to develop a life-long interest in sports. Sport is about creating a passion for being healthy and understanding the benefits that come with being on a team. 

Coaches should focus on developing skills that help student-athletes in life and take the focus off of winning. Some of the greatest skills students can learn from team sports are cooperation and creative problem-solving. Student-athletes encounter and work through a new set of problems in each practice and game. The ability to work collaboratively others is a necessity, and learning through sports is a fun and authentic way to learn this skill.  

In elementary school, SCIS is raising the interest in sports by offering a variety of after-school activities. Many of the after-school activities involve mini-games to help students gain a greater understanding of team sports while developing their skills. Exposing students to a variety of games will give them the ability to transfer these skills to a variety of other sports and activities. 

At SCIS, sports are increasing in popularity every year. We are seeing more and more students taking risks by trying out new sports and joining multiple teams.

(The article is contributed by Matthew Ruf, PE teacher at Shanghai Community International School.)


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