Support the news

A Novel Concept

This article is more than 13 years old.

Am I the only guy who feels that using a video game to convince children to be more physically active is like giving kids Twinkies and ding dongs to encourage them to eat their spinach?

It's not that I want to discourage the authorities in West Virginia who are trying to address the obesity problem among children there, but mightn't it make more sense for them to rediscover the notion that the games we already have...the ones that don't require software or T.V. screens... are fun?

It won't be easy. In too many schools, the system is designed to identify the best athletes by the time they're about twelve, put them on the teams, and train everybody else to watch. Likewise the A.A.U. teams, club teams, and travel teams in lots of towns and cities narrow the funnels early, skim off the tiny number of physically gifted children dedicated to athletic excellence, and direct the rest to the bleachers.

But to assume that the best way to address this situation is to plug the kids who aren't prospects into seven hundred forty dollars worth of dance pads and video software is insulting to the children and to the games they might play.

Wouldn't the money be better spent encouraging physical education teachers and coaches to be inclusive rather than exclusive?

Think about what happens when you roll a ball across the floor toward a toddler. He or she giggles, follows the ball, and rolls it back. Eureka! Exercise! Take a bunch of preschoolers out to a playground and toss a couple of soccer balls in the air. More likely than not, they'll chase the balls and kick them around the field, not because anybody is keeping score or rating their speed and endurance for varsity potential, but because it's fun.

When the kids get a little older, you can no longer assume this sort of fun will occur spontaneously, but that's not the fault of the kids. Too many of the children not headed for the varsity have been taught to think of sports as something that's only for the chosen. But in the communities where recreational basketball, soccer, baseball, and softball are available for youngsters who don't make the cuts, children have the happy opportunity to enjoy physical activity rather than regard it as a attitude likely to help them stay healthy long after the dance pads have lost their appeal.

This program aired on January 26, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.


+Join the discussion

Support the news