Thursday 23 January 2020

Katie Taylor: 'It's too easy for kids to be inactive these days'

Olympic gold-medalist: Katie Taylor.
Olympic gold-medalist: Katie Taylor.

Ireland's Olympic gold-medallist Katie Taylor is keen to promote the benefits of sports to children of all abilities, and not just the high-performers.

"It's so important to educate children about the benefits of staying fit and healthy," the boxer tells Review. "It's too easy these days for young people to be inactive. So, the key is to make exercise fun and interesting and, as a result, encourage them to build exercise into their daily routine."

Taylor (pictured below) has been involved with the Sky Sports Living for Sport programme, which promotes fitness in Irish and UK secondary schools. Last year, the Living for Sport project award went to O'Fiaich College in Dundalk, which beat off competition from up to 1,700 schools.

Brendan O'Malley, PE teacher at O'Fiaich College, is passionate about promoting physical activity in Irish schools.

"At present, the Department of Education recommends students do two hours of physical education per week, but that is not being fulfilled in many schools at all," says O'Malley, who is President of the Physical Education Association of Ireland.

"Because it is not an exam subject, it is seen as less important, and some of the time that should be given over to PE is allocated to subjects such as extra maths."

O'Malley says he has reasonable facilities in his school, but in many schools there is no PE hall, no tarmac area and no pitch.

"I work in an international summer school where students come from abroad, and those from France get one hour of physical activity a day.

"I would say that 50pc of the students in this country have less than 40 minutes a week.

"I would love to have five hours of PE a week. We don't have enough time to make any major impact on physical fitness.

"I see the aim of physical education is to get students to move often and move well. We want to expose students to different areas of physical activity, so that they can participate outside school."

This week, O'Malley was teaching a group of six-year students how to lift weights.

"You have to be taught that in order to benefit from it," says the PE teacher. "You have to be taught how to run and other physical skills."

In other classes, he did gymnastics and athletics with javelin, discus and shot putt.

"The attitude of parents has a major impact on the behaviour of children. Many parents don't have an understanding of the subject.

"The problem for many students is that when they go home, they have no form of physical activity at all.

"Twenty or 30 years ago, students were outside on the street. Part of it comes down safety. There has been a shift towards a more sedentary lifestyle."

O'Malley says taking part in the Sky award helped to excite interest in sport in his school.

As part of the project, the school was visited by sportsmen and women, including pentathlete Natalya Coyle, clubs such as Dundalk FC and sporting organisations.

The project not only helped to boost physical activity in the school, it also helped to motivate participating students in other areas of school life, improving behaviour and increasing attendance.

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