MANY people devote a lot of time to sport. Daily and Sunday newspapers give it acres of space. Yet in school it is squeezed to the margins, the victim of a curriculum that concentrates on the "basics" and of an administrative structure that offers teachers little incentive to be involved with pupils outside the teaching day.
Last week's conference of the Scottish Schoolsport Federation (page three) did little to raise the spirits: driving up standards, the Executive's obsession, does not include physical activities although these are also supposed to be encouraged in the interests of the nation's health and international sports standing. The most encouraging recent initiative, appointing sports co-ordinators in schools, becomes too easily a casualty of spending cuts, as shown by Aberdeenshire's axed posts.
In Rhona Brankin we have a Sports Minister who rectes the right rhetoric but her scope for involvement in schools (where far more young people can be targeted than through clubs) is severely limited. Yet in her ministerial colleagues' quest for higher standards it is an uphill struggle to motivate youngsters with bigger doses of language and mathematics. A better balanced curriculum, with more attention to sport and the arts, would stimulate a wider range of pupils - and lead to better results in the "basic" subjects.
Wider participation in games would pave the way to better performance by our national teams. Hidden talents would be spotted and, where necessary, developed through specialist sports schools now being piloted. But none of this will happen without better facilities across the country and incentives to encourage teacher participation. Rhona Brankin has a role in the post-McCrone debates.