Saturday 26 May 2018

Dr Ciara Kelly: Let's give our children a sporting chance

Boys continue with sports into their teens.
Boys continue with sports into their teens.

Ciara Kelly

At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, teenagers nowadays are growing up in a very different era to ours. There are pressures that we simply could not have conceived of back in the day. Yes, we too suffered the social humiliations of spots and bad perms. OK - they don't get bad perms any more and even if they did, this bunch of adolescents would somehow avoid them. (When did young Irish people become so good looking? It wasn't the way back in the eighties. And yet we were always appearance-conscious. But I'm not sure that there was this level of conformity 30 years ago that there is now for the 'always on' generation. They simply can't get away from the constant peer pressure which dilutes the influence of family, teachers and adults.)

I could witter on endlessly about the different ways that's affecting them, but specifically I'd like to talk about how their uber appearance-conscious culture is having a detrimental effect on their health. Ah, we were always appearance-conscious, I hear you cry! Maybe so - but we were never in a position of posting a photo of ourselves looking our very best, 12 times a day for the approval or otherwise of hundreds of friends we barely knew. That is their reality.

This desire to always look well - apart from breeding insecurity and the feeling that your value is intrinsically tied to your appearance - has contributed to adolescent girls falling away from sports in their droves. Girls almost overnight when they hit first year, are dropping their balls and their sport kits in favour of their make-up kits. An apparent fear of looking red faced, sweaty and unattractive seems to be at the heart of why teenage girls don't continue with sports in their secondary school years. And, simply put, it's bad for them to give up sports.

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