We must stretch ourselves and encourage a healthier nation

22nd April 2011 at 01:00
Creating sporting legacies takes a team effort and real dedication to physical education

Whatever the colour of the party election pledges, it has never been more important for Scotland's politicians to recognise the need to give this nation's kids a sporting chance.

As a parent and sports coach, I understand the benefits that a healthy attitude to diet and exercise offers children and adults - whatever one's sporting ambitions.

So after more than 40 years in sport, it's with dismay I continue to read that almost 50 per cent of Scotland's primary children still fail to enjoy regular access to physical education, while an Edinburgh University study recently reported only 15 per cent of 7,000 children (11, 13 and 15 year- olds) surveyed undertook regular exercise.

While political parties announce health care reforms, free prescriptions, etc, surely many health problems could be avoided if we maximised our efforts to encourage a healthier nation.

Practical solutions can be found but these must be driven through by political, educational and parental will. Strong leaders must recognise the need for a serious review of the obstacles, including whatever prevents Scotland's primary-aged kids enjoying at least two hours of PE a week.

I would like to see a minimum of four hours' specialist primary school PE every week. That's a lesson a day. It's in our early years that we develop the co-ordination skills to help our enjoyment of - and ability in - sport. This develops the all-important trait of self-confidence.

From years of coaching, I appreciate that kids value the sense of belonging and pride that comes from being part of a club or team. Every parent knows that encouraging a child to follow a routine can do wonders for discipline. In their teenage years, membership of a sports club or a school team can be the catalyst for developing healthy interests and social links.

At some point in their lives, most kids will dream of success on the world sporting stage. Few will make it on to the podium, but if we can create the right opportunities, including after-school sport, an endless supply of encouragement and praising of effort rather than success, they can at least aspire to be the best they can be.

School and community sport facilities are being improved or built - like the impressive Sir Chris Hoy velodrome taking shape in Glasgow's East End. All very welcome, as long as timetabling and entry charges don't prevent kids from using them.

It's against this background that politicians love to trumpet the national pride and prestige that the 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games will bring. They have a point but there has to be a legacy to hosting these events. It has to start now.

Judy Murray is a sports coach and mother of tennis star Andy Murray.

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