Can AFLW, WBBL and W-League influence women’s health?

Can AFLW, WBBL and W-League influence women’s health?

I sat glued to my television tonight watching the first ever women’s AFL game. I am in awe! Awe of the strong, fast, resilient women who have worked exceptionally hard behind the scenes to put this spectacle on. Awe in the spectators who have come out in their thousands to watch the game and even awe in the AFL (who I have ragged on, on many an occasion) for getting the league up and running. I will add that this is also the feeling when I watch the WBBL and the netball leagues.
Now I love sport and everything it brings but I also realize sport can be perceived as just a competition where people either chase the ball or each other to win (usually just for sheep stations). For some people, sport is not very interesting (crazy, i know). But I view this momentous moment as more thatn just another game of sport. Why?
Well let’s skip forward a little bit…
Currently as it stands only 9 per cent of girls aged 12-14 year old reached the minimum daily physical activity guidelines (which is less than half of the 20 per cent of boys reaching the standard.) This decreases to 6 per cent of 15-17 year old girls. NOT GOOD!
 But I digress…
Even though women started playing competitively in the 1920’s, this game has always been regarded as a ‘man’s game’. Up until 2004, girls could play in boy’s team until 12 years of age but then that was it. They either transitioned to open women’s games or they didn’t play. Now with AFL being the biggest sport in Australia participation wise and easily the most visible in the media, saying to girls you can’t play anymore is a pretty big negative.
Now if we have the most influential sport discouraging women to stop moving, it is not surprising that research shows that girls lag behind boys in their movement skills, balance and physical activity and that the gender gap only widens as girls get older. Then those women have children and those young kids see their mum’s being inactive and the vicious cycle continues. We previously discussed this in our previous blog Do your kids see you sweat.
So yes! AFL, SOCCER, cricket, netball, softball, hockey can all help us lead the way in teaching our girls that as females sweat and strength is great. It is something to be proud of rather than embarrassed about. As parents, we need to encourage it. Whatever movement our kids want to do, aid them in anyway you can. This can help build behaviours of physical and mental health.
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adults and sport making our kids fatter.

Among all the bad news on the radio as I drove to work this morning, I heard that the Heart Foundation has released data from a new study stating that now 25% of Australian kids are overweight or obese, and that they are tipped to be the first generation EVER to live less than their parents.

This is depressing on so many counts – the emotional/psychological load on these kids because of the behaviours we, as adults, allow them to assimilate; their decreased quality of life; and the financial burden on society… just this point alone has so many ramifications. just ask yourself, who is going to look after their parents in their later years??

Now, I know that we keep talking about changed eating habits, increased screen (tv, computers, etc) time, and decreased movement at school. but lets face it: are these things really to blame? or are we, as the example setting parents/adults allowing and driving our kids towards these behaviours?? I authored an article (A decrease in the association between the physical activity patterns of Australian parents and their children; 1985-1997) published in 2005 in the Journal of Science Medicine and Sport, which showed that not only are kids playing less sport now, but also the strength of our influence over their behaviour seems to be decreasing. I guess all you have to do is look at the empty parks around our neighbourhoods that once upon a time had fathers kicking the footy with their sons…

I think there’s also another force at play here, and that is sport, or at least sports-based Phys. Ed. I think that this model rewards the genetically gifted kids (those that can play sports well, and hence also enjoy it), and not kids who are less coordinated/skilled, who may still be trying hard. We all know what happens to these kids, don’t we? they struggle to pick up the intricacies of the game, are the last picked to be part of teams, and eventually develop lack of self-confidence, which leads to avoidance behaviours. What happened to ‘play’? what happened to the notion that schools should be trying (supposedly) to equip our children to succeed in life as adults? is being able to catch and throw a ball with a Lacrosse stick going to make them more influential and valuable citizens, and fulfilled human beings?? how about instilling in them healthy behaviours; to understand that it is ‘movement’ that will save their lives?

There are programs in the States (of A) that now equip children with Heart Rate monitors and reward (and grade) children based on their relative intensity of work, rather than on their skills. this way all children can work within their skill limits and still achieve great outcomes in health. An interesting concept I think.

So, adults, get out and PLAY with your kids! show them that you enjoy moving and being active; that its not a chore, but a reward! We have amazing bodies, which thrive with movement!

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