Letter: Obesity and our sporting decline

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ON the subject of obesity, it is hardly surprising that, unlike in the past, so many children seem to have become ‘junk food obese’ after eating the wrong kind of foods and lacking exercise.

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Now that we are officially top of the ‘European Fat League’ perhaps we should realise that it is partly the fault of parents, and also of schools, colleges and other educational institutes, who are afraid to run the risk of injuries to children by having them compete in particularly energetic sports such as soccer, rugby and gymnastics.

At the same time there seems to be a shortage of pupils wishing to take part in PE of any kind. From the standpoint of developing mental and physical ability to give and take hard knocks in a sportsmanlike manner, it is not surprising that, especially in cricket, football and rugby in particular, we seem unable to produce enough players of outstanding ability as so often in the past. The result is that most Premier League teams now contain at least 50 per cent or more of foreign players.

It used to be said that if a fast bowler or a batsman was needed, one only had to shout down the nearest mineshaft for the emergence of a Boycott or a Truman to quickly become established in Yorkshire and English cricket. Where have they all gone? Likewise the Finneys, the Mathewses and Lawtons of yesteryear, who as children developed and honed their skills in the back streets or schoolyards of the day, when teachers believed that the involvement of children in sport was just as important as the three ‘R’s.

Unless the trend toward obesity and lack of exercise is corrected by the efforts of such people, little will change. This is indeed a sorry situation, and along with a decline in children’s health many sports, apart from the obvious, are beginning to suffer.

One once played by thousands, crown green bowls, the most British of sports, is being hit hard. The smoking ban and the inability to afford the cost of green upkeep after parent clubs close is one reason; computers, Game Boys and other indoor pursuits are others. So much so that where Leeds has always been prominent in bowls and its players eminently successful, a situation has now arisen where clubs, due to lack of players, have to withdraw from leagues.

This news may be of little importance to many, but here is a sport which can be character- and confidence-building, in which youngsters can compete without the risk of injuries.

Therefore there is nothing to stop teachers and older players from introducing bowls, theory and practise, into their activities. Those with long involvement in bowls feel that the sport is definitely at the crossroads, and unless extra measures are employed to stem the decline, the prospects are anything but bright. The game needs fresh blood. Why not give it a try?

E Lundy, by email

YEP Letters: April 12