More than gold medals – how do share the right messages to influence our students and increase physical activity participation?

The Olympic spirit of Pierre de Coubertin was originally described as the notion of taking part, rather than only focusing on elitism and obtaining medals. Represented as the pinnacle of human performance, one would expect the Olympic ‘legacy’ to result in an increase in physical activity levels, educational campaigns and grassroots sports participation. Researchers have found this is indeed not the case with no measurable change in sports participation either immediately before or after the Olympic Games.

This piece via The Lancet states, "the Olympic Games have not improved population-wide physical activity and might be an important missed public health opportunity". It is noted that the Olympics contribute to sports facilities, promote sports education and foster elite sports training programs, yet these effects only reach high-level athletes.

The fact that the Olympic effect is only really reaching high-level athletes, coupled with a recent article in The Conversation on doping scandals at every Olympics "reaching back to the middle of the 20th century”, how can we ensure we as educators are delivering the right messages of involvement and fair play to our students in these hugely spectated and most anticipated sporting events? As educators and teachers we must be aware of these matters, and have these conversations with our students.

The Victorian Curriculum for Health and Physical Education, supports that students learn through movement the concept of fair play and following rules from as early as Foundation (see Follow rules when participating in physical activities VCHPEM070). In Personal, Social and Community Health, students by the end of Level 6 are expected to plan and practise strategies to promote health, safety and wellbeing (VCHPEP108), as well as recognise how the media and important people in the community influence personal attitudes, beliefs, decisions and behaviours (VCHPEP111).  

Although the Olympics may bring to light some controversial issues, we should be having these conversations more regularly than once every four years.  

If we talk about these issues with our students more regularly, we can more effectively use the sporting spectacle that is the Olympic Games to remind our communities of the importance of physical activity, create a legacy of mass sports participation and promote physical activity to ensure we have healthy, happy and resilient students. 

To chat about how to increase student physical activity levels linked to the curriculum, please get in touch!