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My campaign for LESS sport in school


With all the sport in the air this summer, there have been various campaigns to increase coverage of women’s sport, or to back PE for kids in school. I’d like to start a campaign of my own for LESS sport in school.

My secondary school, like most girls’ schools in Dublin, basically offered two alternatives: hockey in winter and tennis in summer. I was totally useless at both so I spent most weeks either ‘forgetting’ my kit, or skulking on the sidelines afraid the ball would hit me or worse, that I would have to hit it. However, when we were 16 we had ‘Transition year’ in which zaniness reigned and we did things like aerobics and trampolining. It was fantastic; I loved it. But then came fifth year, and it was straight back to hockey-and-tennis, which meant I really did no exercise until I went to college.

I later took up yoga, and cycling and running now I love exercise – but my teenage years were almost completely sedentary, and all the sport my school made no difference because I hated them. And I definitely wasn’t alone. That’s why I wish there was a little less emphasis on ‘sports in school’ and getting girls involved, and more thought to just helping teenagers – especially teenage girls – to enjoy exercise, and to offer ‘physical education’ in a real sense, not just competitive sports.

I understand that schools have to work within budgets but surely things like dance classes, or aerobics or even (gasp) yoga would be more cost-effective than sports, which require expensive equipment and extensive grounds? I’m not for a minute arguing that we should chuck out all sports. I just think there should be alternatives to the whole play-the-game mentality, which I suspect is a hangover from Victorian public schools. There probably are some fancy schools where Pilates and yoga are on the menu, but I suspect right now they’re outnumbered by teenage girls trying to think of an excuse to get out of netball.

What do you all think? Am I being unfair to sport? What was your experience of sport in schools? Were you a hockey fan or did you hide in the changing rooms?

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