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Gymnastics Australia supports increasing school sport participation

Gymnastics Australia supports increasing school sport participation
August 21, 2012

Gymnastics Australia is calling for Federal and State Governments to review skill development and sport participation in Australian schools.

Gymnastics Australia Chief Executive Catherine Clark said teaching children the fundamental movement skills in schools as well as through community sport is critical to increasing sports participation, fostering the enormous pool of talent in Australia and ultimately keeping children fit and healthy.

Clark explains "early mastery of these skills promotes lifelong participation in physical activity and increases the chance of sporting excellence and along the way promotes fitness and health.

"Traditionally, gymnastics was a core part of school and physical education because it was critical in providing kids with the full range of fundamental skills needed for sport and physical activity but with increasing pressures on curricular and extra-curricular time, for example, this has been eroded."

Clark says that the Federal Government should consider a strategic approach to improving sports participation and developing talent by targeting sports for specific outcomes.

"Sports like gymnastics can play a different role than the typical approach. Gymnastics is not only a top elite sport at the Olympics but is a perfect nursery for kids to bring out their potential and develop their talent.

"Gymnastics is identified by many top ranked sporting nations as a 'foundation sport' because it teaches children everything from running, balancing and catching as well as nurturing overall muscle development and fitness.

"These fundamental skills help kids stay active for life, are crucial for good health in addition to developing future sporting champions.

"You only need to look at some of our elite sports people such as Alisa Camplin, Sally Pearson, Matt Mitcham and Lydia Lassila to see these results. They all started in Gymnastics and all have gone on to be champions in other sports.

"I see gymnastics as the nursery of Australian sport. It's where kids can learn to experience and love movement and where so much of our sporting talent pool can be nurtured and given the best start in life, not just in sport, but in terms of brain development, education, health and general growth later on in life."

Having worked in sporting systems in Europe and New Zealand, Clark believes there is huge potential for improvement in Australian Sports, adding "Australia needs to look at the policies, programs and targeted resourcing in countries like Britain and New Zealand.

"In the modern lifestyle, we are far more sedentary, backyards are shrinking and the old 'cricket in the street' is just not as prevalent.

"Now is the time for government to review investment in sport and the policies which support physical education and school sport. Establishing a strong foundation through fundamental skills will give our kids a flying start. We want to inspire a love of sport and we need to give them the tools to participate and excel."

Clark urged that an approach like this would see an investment into the 2016 Olympics and beyond, concluding "if we want to remain a great sporting nation, we need to first look at the grassroots and build up."

Image shows Australian gymnast Lauren Mitchell.


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