Q. ‘Playing sport in school should be compulsory’. Discuss. By Hafsah Nauman

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Playing sports in this day and age is gaining more and more attraction as technology advances and parents and teachers try harder to push children outside to play sports. Due to these growing concerns more and more schools are adopting a policy wherein it is now mandatory for children to attend gym classes weekly and for them to take up an after-school sport activity. Many people are on the fence as to whether or not this is a good initiative and a question repeatedly resurfaces: ‘Should playing sport in school be compulsory?’

Advocates of sports being made compulsory at school maintain that sports have several psychological benefits along with physical benefits that can greatly help children especially adolescents. Research shows that teenagers who actively play sports especially at school or community centers are 23% less likely to fall into depression as compared to those who do not; this is due to the release of endorphins by the brain which help stimulate happiness and are a stress-relief for such children. However, challengers of this topic argue that this research has not been applied on a broad spectrum and has to be better developed before it can be widely accepted and that the toxic nature of school sports leads to self-esteem being tied to sports performance. Due to this many of these teenagers only release endorphins when they/ their coach are satisfied with their performance, if not they are more likely to fall into a deeper depression due to lack of self-appreciation and self-worth and tend to worsen their performance and make them lose more often. This turns into a repetitive and vicious cycle that could severely psychologically damage children, especially those in their early stages of puberty as it defines their long-term character. 

Moving forward, campaigners of the topic claim that coaches help children take criticism effectively and work collaboratively. To help young athletes improve, coaches must point out mistakes and faulty technique. Learning to handle this feedback establishes a foundation for adult skill-building and collaboration. In addition, with their team and coaches, athletes learn the give-and-take of working together and managing conflict. Research suggests that athletic girls become women who are better equipped than their non-athletic counterparts to handle criticism and stress. Effective coaching and competition can help build internal resources that will serve kids well into adulthood. Challengers of this claim that, although there are many good coaches there are also coaches who put undue pressure and bully children in sports teams. Too often coaches have a win-at-all-costs mentality especially due to unreal standards and consistent competitions with other schools/facilities, this mentally devastates athletes. A survey in 2019 showed that 56% of girls in sports teams were humiliated by their coaches and ranted and raved at by their coaches causing them to have an unhealthy relationship with sports and a hatred towards themselves and the game. This severely damaged the children mentally as Dr. Yoo Kihyun PhD says, “Harassment and bullying in sports especially by adults and coaches results in suicidal tendencies and more mental breakdowns in children than average, girls tend to be subjected to this more than boys however the mental side-effects target both genders equally and have lasting impacts on them throughout their lives.” This clearly demonstrates the potential harms and mental scars children face due to sports- especially those in a school environment. 

Proponents of the topic put forward that while teens competing in sports are certainly exposed to opportunities to enhance their personal and social development, athletes competing in public school sports also expand their physical abilities and fitness levels. Today’s teens are exposed to an array of entertainment avenues that may foster laziness, such as television, video games, and other media devices, but the traditional experience of sports, exercise, and kinesthetic activities help boost teens’ minds and bodies. Involvement in sporting activities keeps children moving and engaged physically, vital for their overall health and well-being. During these formative high school years, teenagers’ bodies grow and change constantly, and participation in sports can help teens learn how to maneuver and adjust to their changing body and physical abilities. In addition, a teen’s hormones and chemical makeup are constantly in flux. Involvement in sports can actually help the body produce more positive chemicals, such as endorphins and adrenaline, which creates more stable moods, positive feelings of happiness, and decreased feelings of depression or sadness. Campaigners against the topic feel that parents and teenage athletes must also be aware of the potential downfalls of competition and athleticism. As teens engage in competitive events and team sports, their exposure to peer-pressure and anxiety may increase with the need to win. Furthermore, athletes can experience extreme physical pressures when too much is demanded from them, resulting in injuries from overuse or other physical ailments. As revealed in the article, “Sports broke my family apart and now I only wrestle with my emotions,” by Chae Hyungwon, details common wrestling practices can lead to dangerous physical consequences. Wrestlers are often forced to either gain or lose weight in order to compete in their desired weight class, which leads to restrictive dieting often involving severe caloric deprivation. This practice is paired with excessive cardio exercise that quickly, and dangerously, burns off body fat and weight. While these practices are often considered to be a more drastic example of the dangers of athletics, any teen who feels suppressed by the pressures of competition may choose to engage in harmful practices in order to win and encounter athletic success.

In conclusion, sports can help build relationships, help a child remain committed, makes them release endorphins and helps define their long term character, on the other hand children can be subjugated to undue stress and pressure, physical and psychological injuries due to the enforcement of sports. In my opinion, the children should have the right to choose whether or not they wish to take on sports, sports as every other extra-curricular has its advantages and disadvantages; depending on the child certain advantages outweigh the disadvantages and vice versa and hence they should not be forced out of their will to play sports by their schools. Giving them the authority to make that decision in and of itself allows them to analyse and carefully consider their choice and hence helps with the development of character. 

About froebelianwriters

I am an English Language teacher teaching O'Levels Edexcel and CIE A Levels at Froebel's International School, Islamabad. I am also working as a Subject Specialist Literacy consultant for the same school. Writing and reading has always been a passion and I try my utmost to instill these habits and hobbies in my students as well. I can be reached/contacted at fabbas227@hotmail.com or 03365287335 Happy reading!

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