Why has darts grown in popularity so quickly?

Darts has grown into one of the most watched sports across Europe and the attendances are only going in one direction.

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Jack Witham

Darts has grown into one of the most watched sports across Europe and the attendances are only going in one direction.

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Darts was traditionally seen as a pub game ©PeterPan23

Darts used to be known as a pub sport to many people. That has now changed drastically, with crowd numbers being in the thousands and prize money being as high as it’s ever been before. Both the number of fans and the number of players have greatly increased in recent time, but just why has such a simple pub game dramatically grown on a worldwide level?

For starters, there is the addition of players with more flare than ever before. At no point can Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor be criticised; it was him who began to put the sport on the map. The 16 time world champion is a credit to the sport, however his showmanship was limited, letting his arrows do the talking the majority of the time. A leg or set was won with very limited reaction. There is no problem with this; in fact this is the way some feel the game should be played.

Nowadays though, players really like to give it ‘the big un’ when winning just a single leg. In a World Series Final at the back end of 2017, Gerwyn Price and Corey Cadby turned around and celebrated when hitting a ton or more, much to the amusement of many fans who were watching the game. Although the incident was silly, it is what fans want to see. They want the drama and the controversy because it is what they have paid to see.

Players now are just far more entertaining than they used to be. Michael Van Gerwin wins almost everything, and has done so with a certain flashy style. An MVG in full flight is exactly what the punters want to see. The walk ons are also very crowd friendly. ‘Snake bite’ Peter Wright dances across the stage every single time he comes on, immediately getting the crowd involved, and Daryl Gurney sings Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, which is always a crowd favourite. The sport just seems to have developed a more relaxed atmosphere than it ever used to have.

The amount of players participating has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, but why? Well, the prize money that is now on offer for winning tournaments is certainly very eye catching. Rob Cross, the 2017 World Darts Championship winner received a massive £400,000 in prize money. Not bad for somebody in their debut season. When Phil Taylor won the World title in 2000, he received £31,000. This not only shows the growth of the sport but also underlines the phenomenal work that PDC chairman Barry Hearn has done for the sport.

The overall prize money has risen from £500,000 to £15 million since Hearn took the PDC hot seat. He has managed to take a pub game to the second highest rated TV watch of 2017. The sport is in good hands, and with big sponsorship deals continuing to come into the sport, the growth is only going to continue to rise.

The sport is ideal for fans now. Not only is the quality at outrageous levels, there is no longer rules where you must sit down and behave yourself. It is perfect to watch world class talent whilst enjoying a beer (or 10) with others. Barry Hearn once quoted “Darts is the only sport that has a partnership of excitement of a party and world class sport. I don’t know another sport that creates atmosphere on that basis.”

Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), German Darts Grand Prix (GDGP)
Party atmosphere at the darts ©Sven Mandel

This is evident almost every Thursday in the winter when the Premier League is being played. The crowds are outstanding, sell outs every week at venues all around Europe. Wayne Mardle of Sky Sports often reminds viewers of the sell out crowd of 400 people at Stoke’s Kings hall. Well just a couple of weeks ago, the Mercedes Benz Arena had a world record darts attendance of 12,000, underlining the rapid growth of the sport.

The crowd is often very much like it is at football, with chanting often taking place as well as jeering and whistling. But unlike the football, the involvement of the crowd at darts is genuinely always in good spirit. Chants of “boring boring tables” and “feed the stands” are often sung back and forth during the World Championships at the Alexandra Palace. There are rarely any malicious songs chanted during the games, and players are usually given a huge amount of respect whilst playing.

Whilst crowds begin to grow at venues, the amount of viewers watching on Sky Sports has also increased. 960,000 people watched the 2015 World Darts Championship final played between Van Gerwin and Peter Wright. This was 75,000 more than the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Southampton on the same day.

Whilst many still see darts as a pub sport, there is no denying that it has fast become a sensation, especially throughout Europe. Just how long will it take before it becomes a worldwide hit, and we see more money come from countries such as China to develop the sport further.

For the time being, darts is in a good place, and for the immediate future it will continue to be watched by millions and the party will continue.

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How important being home is for the Gibraltar national side

After decades of struggle to be accepted as a football nation, Gibraltarian football celebrates in style.

Jack Douglas

After decades of struggle to be accepted as a football nation, Gibraltarian football celebrates in style.

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Walker celebrates his winning goal ©Gibraltar Football Association

The Victoria Stadium held its breath. Finally in their proud home, Gibraltar’s homecoming in international football was deadlocked against Latvia.

With the game heading into the final minutes destined for a draw, the home side were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Step forward Liam Walker. With a wicked deflection the ball trickled into the Latvian net sparking scenes of pure jubilation.

The Reds held on to record a deserved, historic win. Their first as a FIFA nation, their second as a UEFA nation and, more importantly to the proud Gibraltarians, their first victory on home soil.

The Victoria Stadium, with the Rock as its stunning backdrop, opened in 1926 and was rebuilt in 1971 by the Royal Engineers. When Gibraltar were finally accepted by UEFA in May 2013, the stadium was not deemed to be of sufficient standard for competition. On 13th May 2016, the Rock could finally boast a FIFA affiliated team after endless attempts, intervention from the Court of Arbitration for Sport and intense Spanish opposition.

Forced to play 247 miles away in Faro, Portugal, Team 54 (the nickname given after becoming UEFA’s 54th member) faced Slovakia in their first official international match, managing a superb goalless draw.

A Kyle Casciaro volley gave the side their first official victory as his effort was enough to see off Malta in June 2014, again in Portugal.

Gibraltarian side Lincoln Red Imps ensured they went down in football history by beating Scottish giants Celtic in the first leg of the 2016/2017 Champions League second qualifying round. Gibraltarian football was put on the map to an extent. The Daily Record (1) ran with: “Take a look back as Hoops lose to minnows in Champions League qualifier” before going on to call the result “incredible”.

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The famous Rock of Gibraltar dominates the landscape ©Revolutionary War and Beyond

The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht resulted in Britain securing Gibraltar. Captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet nine years prior, control of the Rock was finally ceded to Britain to ensure they withdrew from the War of Spanish Succession.

Ever since, Spain has highly contested the sovereignty of the Rock. The Siege of 1727 and the French backed Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 – 1783) failed and Gibraltar remained under British command. Located at the gateway to the Mediterranean and at a naval choke-point, Operation Felix was a Nazi plan to capture the strategic Rock, but the invasion never materialised.

In the Gibraltarian sovereignty referendums of 1967 and 2002, 99% and 98% of Gibraltarians opted to remain British respectively. Throughout endless conflict and claims of sovereignty, the Rock of Gibraltar has stood tall and proud; and more importantly, proud to be British.

With plans to build a UEFA demanded Category 4 stadium at either two sites on the peninsula (Europa Point or Lathbury Barracks) coming under severe scrutiny and opposition from Gibraltarians, the GFA purchased Victoria Stadium from the Government of Gibraltar in April 2017 and began to develop the venue.

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Victoria Stadium ©Stadiony.net

This meant that the scene was set for Gibraltar to come home. With a festival of international football lined up and a commemorative kit being launched, the 32,000 strong population were elated.

With Gib’s Under 21 side losing 6-0 to an experienced Serbian side and then 5-0 to Russia, all pressure and expectancy lay on the first team; and in particular on the shoulders of Notts County’s Liam Walker. Gibraltar’s number 10 and joint top scorer signed for County after having previous spells with Portsmouth and Lincoln Red Imps after teenage trials with Manchester United, Aston Villa and Everton. One of only two professional players used against Latvia, Walker found himself lining up alongside policemen and customs agents.

With a population of 1.9 million compared with Gibraltar’s 32,000 and a world ranking of 131, 75 places above Gibraltar down in 206th, Latvia offered fierce competition. When experienced defender Joseph Chipolina pulled up during the warm up and with goalkeeper Kyle Goldwin making his international debut, punters could have been forgiven for backing the Latvians.

Lee Casciaro, brother of the previously mentioned Kyle, curled a shot just wide of the despairing Andris Vanins’ post which ended In the Gibraltar number 7 tweaking a hamstring and being unable to continue. Walker’s freekick finally gave the home side their much deserved goal in the 88th minute.

Walker was delighted with the victory in an interview with GBC (2) following the game: “Obviously we were going on the counter attack. I wanted to bring the ball inside and change the orientation on the ball. We won the foul. It was at a good distance and as soon as the free kick was given I knew I was going to go for goal and yeah, buzzing it had gone in.”

Being back home at Victoria Stadium is something Gibraltar and Walker were delighted with: “It’s absolutely amazing! It’s just what we wanted, to be on our home ground in front of our people because apart from us being on the pitch they are the ones who deserve this. The whole game they were supporting us and you can see when they are here it’s a plus for us as well so yeah, really happy with it.”

It has been quite the rollercoaster for FIFA’s newest nation. Sepp Blatter denied Gib’s membership claim because they weren’t an independent nation, despite the four home nations and the Faroe Islands having membership. UEFA accepted Team 54 despite strong opposition from the Spanish. In 2007 Spain threatened to withdraw all of its teams from UEFA competitions should Gibraltar be given membership.

When the sovereign territory were finally, and rightfully, accepted into world football they were subsequently forced to play at the Estádio Algarve in Portugal. So to be playing football back on home soil shows that the light at the end of the tunnel has been reached.

Whilst they will most likely never reach a major tournament, friendlies like the Latvia fixture will give the side good competition and reasonable fixtures. Gibraltar will face Macedonia, Armenia and Liechtenstein in the UEFA Nations League which starts later this year.

So let’s all hope that for a territory famous for a rock and monkeys, the national football team can start making its people even prouder to be Gibraltarian.

Jack Douglas

Sources:

Daily Record: Lincoln Red Imps v Celtic RECAP: Take a look back as Hoops lose to minnows in Champions League qualifier. 12th July 2016.

Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation: Gibraltar v Latvia – Post Match Interview with Liam Walker. 25th March 2018.

The Effectiveness of Sports Supplements – Part 2

The second part of our sports supplement series looks at individual products, specifically the benefits and pitfalls that comes with them.

Josh Williamson

The second part of our sports supplement series looks at individual products, specifically the benefits and pitfalls that comes with them.

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Does whey protein equal muscle growth? ©Sportexamined

In Part 1, which can be found here (https://sportexamined.com/2018/03/19/the-safety-and-effectiveness-of-sports-supplements-part-1/), the safety of sports supplements was questioned.

From individuals simply wanting to look better naked, to world class athletes, the growth of supplement use has been exponential. Both nationally and globally, billions are spent every year for that ‘magic’ pill to get even a 1% improvement. However, has anyone ever stopped to ask, ‘do these products actually work?’

The number one question any individual should ask themselves before purchasing a supplement is, ‘will this product benefit me?’. To answer this question, the individual must consider the evidence-based effectiveness of the product, but also, is it relevant to the individuals specific goal. The scope of this article is to highlight 4 key supplements which are research-backed.

It is outside the remit of this article to cover all supplements, and thus readers are directed towards Examine.com. This is a database of pretty much every supplement in existence which includes studies on products, usage, dosages, side effects etc. Only when individuals have considered the safety, effectiveness, and if the supplement is needed for their specific goals, should they consider purchasing said supplement. Here, I have outlined 4 of the most common supplements which have scientific evidence to support their effectiveness.

Whey Protein

“Little Miss Muffet, she sat on a tuffet, eating of curds and whey”

This very common nursey rhyme refers to the two proteins found in milk; curds (casein) and whey. The whey is the water-soluble part of the milk and is used for whey protein supplements. Despite the popular belief that protein supplementation itself enhances muscle growth and repair, this is not entirely true. If daily protein targets are achieved through dietary intake, supplementation is unnecessary. A high-protein diet combined with a specific resistance training plan, will support a biological environment for putting on muscle mass. The rationale for using a protein supplement is either to supplement your protein intake from food, and/or convenience. This rationale applies to all protein supplements in general, such as protein milk, protein bars, protein ice cream, protein bread etc which are all so common now.

It is also important to point out at this stage that whey supplementation, or high-protein diets in general, do not cause damage to the liver or kidneys in healthy individuals. If you have any underlying kidney/liver conditions, protein intake should be increased under the guidance of a medical professional.

 

Fish Oil

Fish oil commonly refers to two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA, which are typically found in fish and animal products. Fish oil exhibit a number of health benefits including enhancing mood, reducing disease factor risk, reducing inflammation, and is associated with reductions in triglycerides.

With relation to dosage, the American Heart Association recommends 1g per day; however, this reflects a combined total of EPA and DHA. Ideally, this should be achieved through a balanced diet; nevertheless, if individuals don’t like eating fish, this can be achieved through a fish oil supplement, or an algae supplement if you don’t like that fishy aftertaste that can come with some products. With fish oil supplements, it is important to read the nutritional label; for example, the label may state a combined total of 400mg per serving of EPA and DHA which would require 2-3 servings to achieve the recommended dose.

Creatine

If you are currently involved in sport, or even gym culture, you will no doubt have heard of creatine supplementation. Creatine is potentially the single most studied supplement in history; and has endless evidence to support its effectiveness, and safety. Creatine is naturally occurring in some foods such as meat, eggs and fish, however the dosage provided is usually insufficient to provide a desirable outcome. To put this into context, creatine powder is usually consumed in dosages of 5-20g per day; this equates to 1-4kg of meat!

Typically marketed as a ‘muscle gain’ product, creatine essentially acts as a source of energy for your cells. Despite the marketing claims, creatine does not increase muscle mass per say; however, there is concrete evidence to support the use of creatine for high intensity exercise, power sports, and repeated sprint ability. This means weightlifters, bodybuilders, football/rugby players and basketballers to name a few, would benefit from creatine supplementation. There may be some research potentially supporting the use of creatine supplementation for endurance performance and it also shows promise on cognition.

With regards safety, it should be noted that there is no research demonstrating negative effects of creatine supplementation on either kidney or liver function of healthy individuals. On the other hand, individuals with pre-existing or underlying kidney or liver conditions should use caution if using a creatine supplement and do so under the supervision of a medical professional.

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Being out in the sun is the most enjoyable way of getting vitamin D

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is essential for many biological functions. The most enjoyable source of this vitamin is obviously lying on a beach somewhere in the Maldives; however, it can also be consumed through dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and fortified foods.

Despite the excessive media attention on vitamin D deficiency, the majority of the population are not deficient in vitamin D, or we would have a rickets epidemic on our hands. However, there is a stark difference between minimum threshold, and ideal amount. Most of the research on vitamin D status and populations demonstrate that most people are not in the ideal range; as a result, supplementation is a viable option. Vitamin D supplementation is associated with increased cognition, immune health, bone health and overall well-being, thus individuals should be aiming to consume the ideal amount; especially if in cold or overcast areas. Individuals should aim to consume a Vitamin D3 supplement anywhere in the range of 1000IU-10,000IU per day; preferably along with meals.

Note; All information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For specific medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, consult a professional.

Josh Williamson

Top 10 practical nutrition tips for marathon preparation

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or simply looking to get the best out of your morning run, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

Ted Munson

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or simply looking to get the best out of your morning run, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

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Professional marathon runners
  1. Prepare: If you’re heading out for a morning run, prepare your breakfast the night before. Foods like overnight oats are ideal choices and allow you to get up and get fuel on board. Likewise, if you’re heading out after work, make sure you have your recovery shake or meal ready. I recommend taking on both carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of finishing a run to fuel adaptations and assist recovery for your next session.

 

  1. Complex carbohydrates: These will help fuel your runs and include foods like bread, pulses, legumes, rice and pasta. This will release steadily into the bloodstream to provide sustained energy. It’s recommended to consume these around 2 hours pre-run to allow time for digestion, helping to prevent unwanted gastrointestinal issues. Combine complex carbohydrates with a source of protein like meat, eggs, fish or cheese for the ideal pre or post training meal.

 

  1. Carbohydrate load: Carbohydrate is the main fuel for performance and will fuel you on the road. You should aim to take on around 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilo of your body mass per day for 48 hours before your race. This should be implemented along with a taper in training. This does seem like a lot of food, so consider using high energy carbohydrate (maltodextrin-based) drink between meals to increase carbohydrate stores.

 

  1. Hydration: It’s not always practical to carry a bottle and drink during long runs. Pre-hydrate effectively by drinking an electrolyte solution. The sodium will help the body retain and absorb fluid more effectively. Electrolyte tabs are a convenient way to increase sodium intake both pre and post exercise. Don’t forget you will usually have access to water on race-day, so it is important to learn to drink while running! How much you drink depends entirely on your sweat rate. Weigh yourself pre and post session and work out toughly how much water you’re using through sweat. Aim not to lose 2% of your body mass. From my experience, this usually works out as consuming 250ml – 500ml per hour during longer runs (half marathon +) When training, you could run loop past your house and practice taking on small amounts of fluid during the run.

 

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Hydration is key
  1. Fuel for the work required: We use both fat and carbohydrate as a fuel source during endurance exercise. Fuelling for the work required involves training sessions with reduced energy intake (e.g having breakfast after a morning run) and training sessions where your race- day fuelling strategy is practiced (e.g fuelling with 60g per hour during a run, using energy gels). Quite simply, fuel longer sessions with carbohydrate (perhaps your long weekend run?) and fuel shorter sessions with low carbohydrate. It’s always important to refuel effectively post run, especially if undertaken in a fasted state.

 

  1. Practice your nutrition strategy in training: It’s important to train the body to utilize carbohydrates and tolerate sports nutrition during running. Our digestive system works differently when we exercise, so It’s important to practice using gels, bars and drinks during training runs. I recommend starting off using 1 gel immediately before a run and progressing to 1 gel during a run. Eventually, you should be able to easily consume enough food during runs to take on 60 g per hour. The worst thing you can do is try new forms and amounts of carbohydrate on race day!

 

  1. Have your ‘pre –run’ meal around 90 minutes before: When preparing for a race or a long training session, aim to have a carbohydrate meal around 90 minutes before. This will ensure that you start your run with ‘topped-up’ energy stores. This goes for both training and race day. Practice your pre-run meal and consume what works for you. Keep it the same for race day. Note that marathons often start early and you may have to have an early start to take on your breakfast!

 

  1. Don’t neglect protein: During endurance exercise, our muscle protein still breaks down, which is detrimental to adaptations (the purpose of training). We also need to consider the mitochondrial adaptations! Aim to take on 1.2-2g of protein per kg of your body mass per day top help muscles adapt and provide key amino acids to help make new muscle proteins. Ideally, take on protein at a rate of 20-25g every 3-4 hours throughout the day, as well as before and after training.

 

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©JMsportpix
  1. Recover: Recovery isn’t just about protein, we need to consider that tough endurance exercise depletes energy stores and can impair immune function. I recommend taking on a meal within 30 minutes of finishing your training runs. This should contain around 60% carbohydrates (including vegetables) with a lean source of protein. Although, many runners do not want to eat immediately post-exercise. Here, a recovery shake can provide a convenient protein and carbohydrate source. I always recommend that if you have a recovery shake, always aim to take on a full mal within 1 hour of finishing.

 

  1. Avoid: In the 48 hours before your event, it’s a good idea to avoid certain foods that might upset your stomach or what you’re not used to having. Key foods that may (or may not) cause problems are both spicy and high fat foods. I would also recommend having low-moderate fibre the day before your race. Make sure you’ve practiced your pre-race nutrition strategy and most importantly, never try anything new on race day!

Ted Munson

What qualifying for a World Cup means to Panama

The incredible story of how Panama’s football team qualified for their first major tournament.

Jack Douglas

The incredible story of how Panama’s football team qualified for their first major tournament.

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Passion @BelTel_Sport

On December 20th 1989, the US launched a full military invasion of Panama. Estimates believe Operation Just Cause resulted in the loss of up to 7000 Panamanians and ended with the deposing of Military Dictator Manuel Noriega.

Known by many for military coups, narcotics, and a canal; Panama has often made the headlines in quite a derogatory fashion. Noriega’s Dignity Battalions acted like storm-troopers; a combatant militia that stood in the way of any attacks from both domestic and overseas opposition.

Luis Ovalle, Fidel Escobar, Roman Torres, Adolfo Machado and Jaime Penedo now form the Panamanian Football Team’s own Dignity Battalion; the last line of defence from any foreign threats.

With the odds stacked against them, Los Canaleros lined up against Costa Rica in October knowing only a victory and a US slip up in Trinidad would grant them their ticket to Russia. Panama’s dream looked left in tatters as Johan Vanegas put the Costa Ricans one up.

But for a country synonymous with conflict and fight, giving up was never an option. With the US enduring a nightmare in Trinidad, Gabriel Torres drew the hosts level with a goal marred in controversy, before namesake Roman Torres netted an 87th minute winner to send the 4 million population of Panama into dreamland.

Gabriel Torres’ equaliser came after a goal-line scramble, and the ball didn’t appear to cross the line. But with Russia confirmed for the Reds, fans and players alike won’t have lost any sleep over the ghost goal.

President Juan Carlos Varela tweeted: “You deserve it… Viva Panama!” A national holiday was subsequently called, allowing fans of a once war-torn nation to celebrate something miraculous that everyone had worked so hard to achieve.

After America’s invasion of Panama, a sense of irony prevailed when the plucky little nation got their own back against the States, crushing the dreams of wonderkid Christian Pulisic and co.

For a Baseball playing nation, reaching a football world cup was only a dream for many. The Liga Panameña de Fútbol is the top tier of the Panamanian football pyramid. To give some context to the size of the game in the country, current champions and most successful club C.D. Árabe Unido play their home games at Estadio Armando Dely Valdés in front of a capacity of 4,000 people.

Panama line up against England in Group G, alongside Belgium and Tunisia. Whilst Panama’s champions perform for 4,000, our champions, Chelsea, play in front of 41,000 at Stamford Bridge, and are broadcast to millions across the globe.

The man that scored the historic goal for his country Roman Torres summed up what qualification meant to his team and country, saying they are: “Extremely happy, just thankful to god for the things that happened and we are really happy to be going to the world cup.

“Pure happiness, the Panamanians are so blessed with what happened, it’s something we’ve been working to for some time. I can’t say it enough, the stadium was just in pure happiness and euphoria over what happened. It was a historic moment for our country.”

A photo circulated that showed Torres, a pitch-invader and a police officer embracing one another following the full time whistle. The sheer delight inside the stadium was sensational, says Torres:

“When the moment arrived, if the fans are going to come, they are going to come. The Panamanians felt the moment, they are part of the moment. What are you going to do? You can’t stop them entering the field in such a moment, not only for the people of Panama City and Panama, but for the national team also. You can’t stop them coming and celebrating such a historic moment.”

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The crowd erupted ©AP – Mail Online Website

Fifa’s 56th ranked team are managed by Colombian Hernán Darío Gómez. El Bolillo (The Truncheon) managed Ecuador side to their first World Cup in 2002, four years after his Colombian side bowed out of the ’98 finals in the group stages. In an interview with Fox Sports, El Bolillo said that his team are going to face powerhouses like Belgium and England, before adding: “We’re going to face these tough guys, and they’re going to be happy about it.”

In football though, as England fans know all too well, the underdogs often spring up surprises.

The country’s all-time leading scorer Blas Perez has netted 43 goals for Los Canaleros. Perez has enjoyed successful spells in Uruguay, Colombia, America and Mexico, with brief stints in Spain and the UAE. The cult-hero figure celebrated reaching the world cup with a tweet dedicated to his countrymen, which read: “Our greatest satisfaction was to fulfil the dream of a nation. See you in Russia my people!”

The common consensus surrounding Panamanian football and the successes of the national team seem to be one of togetherness and camaraderie, with the people of the nation being just as pivotal and important as the eleven on the field.

Two Panamanian commentators were seen screaming, crying and jumping into each other’s arms as the full time whistle went against Costa Rica. Their neighbours had inflicted Panama’s heaviest ever defeat in 1938, 11-0, so victory for Panama over their rivals made qualification even sweeter.

With an average income of $13,654, Panamanian’s are looking at an estimated cost of €3,228 ($3,969) for the trip to Russia according to The World Game. But for a nation who are finally starting to get behind the beautiful game, thousands of supporters are expected to make the journey.

Panama’s motto of ‘For the Benefit of the World’ seems more apt than ever now as the tiny nation gets to show itself off on the biggest stage of all. Let’s hope that the nation, known by many for US military intervention and a de facto dictator, can change the minds of many and help contribute to what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting tournaments to date.

¡Viva Panamá!

Jack Douglas

 

The safety and effectiveness of sports supplements – Part 1

More and more people are now turning to supplements to support their training regime. But how useful are they?

Josh Williamson

More and more people are now turning to supplements to support their training regime. But how useful are they?

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©Sportexamined

According to the Nutritional Business Journal1, it is estimated that by 2022, the global sports nutrition market will be worth over 32 billion pounds. Protein powders, amino acids, creatine, essential fatty acids, probiotics, caffeine, multivitamins, fat loss and weight loss pills; just a small list of common dietary supplements bought on a daily basis. Recent estimations suggest approximately one in four Brits consume a sports supplement as part of their daily diet2; however, many experts believe this to be underestimated. Furthermore, 12% of university students have reported to consuming more than 4 dietary supplements per week. With claims such as ‘mind-blowing muscle growth’, ‘superhuman strength’, and ‘hardcore fat loss’, it’s easy to see why so many people invest in these products. Previous statistics show that 80% of ten years olds are afraid of being fat with the leading causes being social media, ‘weight-teasing’, and peer pressure3; however, with the explosion of social media fitness bloggers, it is likely that this figure is much worse than we first thought. The growing epidemic of negative self-image and constant endeavour to achieve the ‘perfect’ body is clearly reflected in the exponential growth of the supplement industry.From the Olympic athlete, right through to the recreational gym goer just wanting to look better naked, supplement use has increased aggressively over the past decade. This raises major ethical concerns over safety, not to mention if these products are even effective. For part one in this series,  the focus will be on the safety of these products.

Safety

According to the UK Anti-Doping Agency, as much as 25% of sports supplements have been contaminated with illegal substances4. In practical terms, almost half of all positive drug tests are due to sports products being contaminated with banned substances4. In 2015, the New England Journal of Medicine, published a robust research study, concluding in the United Sates of America, 23,000 people ended up in the emergency room as a result of taking dietary supplements5. Additionally, the now illegal fat loss drug known as DNP has caused 15 deaths in England and Wales alone6, with medical experts reporting, “individuals are cooking themselves from the inside out”. As weight loss is the number one reason why most people go to the gym, its not surprising that of those 23,000 ER visits, 35% were due to fat loss and energy-boosting supplements. It could be concluded that the majority of these ER visits were due to individuals overdosing specific products. To elaborate, many popular pre-workout and diet supplements are heavily dosed with stimulants; specifically, caffeine. Caffeine is one of the most commonly consumed drugs and may boost mental and physical performance when used in the correct dosage. However, high doses of caffeine can lead to anxiety, digestive issues, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, palpitations and headaches. From the presented statistics it is clear to see as a society we have a lack of education surrounding supplement use.

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Weight loss supplements are popular among gym goers

Do Your Research!

Before taking a new product, it is important that you are aware of the potential side effects associated with that product. A supplement is most likely to cause side effects when they are taken instead of prescribed medicines, when they are taken in quantities greater than the recommended dose, or when supplements are used in combination. For example, consuming too much vitamin A can cause headaches, whereas too much iron can cause nausea and vomiting. These are some of the ‘milder’ side effects when compared to the aforementioned, DNP, or other illegal supplements such as DMAA. When taking any new dietary supplement, it is recommended you consult a registered professional or your General Practitioner/Physician beforehand. This will provide a better understanding of whether a specific supplement is necessary and if it will interact with any medication.

How Can I Keep Safe?

Fortunately for consumers of sports supplements, there are many third-party laboratories which verify individual products. These companies test what is stated on the ingredient list with what is in the actual product. This initial batch-testing is usually followed up by continual randomised testing to ensure good manufacturing practices. The three largest companies which provide this testing are NSF International, Informed Choice and Consumer Lab. It is important to note; the onus is on the individual consumer and they should form their own educated decision on specific product. From a professional prospective, consumers should be able to research the traceability of individual products as this will allow dissemination of the source and ensure the product has been manufactured to the highest standard.

Practical Considerations

Before considering any dietary supplement, individuals need to consider 3 criteria as outlined by the Sports and Exercise Nutrition Register7;

  • Is there a need for supplementation? A performance need or a general health need?
  • What are the risks and side effects associated with the supplement? Can it be accessed on Informed-Sport or other third party independent testing? Has it been batch tested? Store the batch tested certificate for a minimum of 10 years to keep in line with retrospective anti-doping testing protocols.
  • Is there consequences from consuming the supplement? For an athlete this could be a 2-4 year ban from their sport or loss of sponsors. For recreational individuals this could serious health complications and subsequent impact on family and friends.

Josh Williamson

 

  1. Supplement Business Report. New Hope Network; 2016. Available at: https://www.newhope.com/product-types/nbj-reports Accessed March 13, 2018.
  2. Consumer consumption of vitamin and mineral food supplements. Food Standards Agency, 2008; Available at: http://www. foodbase.org.uk//admintools/reportdocuments/472-1-841_viminsupconsumer.pdf
  3. Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G. B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1997). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 20(1), 27-37.
  4. United Kingdom Anti-Doping. Supplement Risk for Performance Athletes. 2018. Available at: https://www.ukad.org.uk/resources/document-download/supplements-advice
  5. Geller AI, Shehab N, Nina J, et al. Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015; 373:1531-1540.
  6. Office for National Statistics. Number of deaths where dinitrophenol (DNP) was mentioned on the death certificate, England and Wales, 2007 to 2016. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/007648numberofdeathswheredinitrophenoldnpwasmentionedonthedeathcertificateenglandandwales2007to2016
  7. Sports and Exercise Nutrition Register. Supplement Use in Sport Position Statement. 2016; Available at: senr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/160803SupplementStatement.pdf

Why are there no athletes with intellectual disabilities in Pyeongchang?

The winter Paralympics continues to amaze with extraordinary feats. It is now time for people with Intellectual disabilities to take part.

Tom Weir

The winter Paralympics continues to amaze with extraordinary feats. It is now time for people with Intellectual disabilities to take part.

The_PyeongChang_2018_Paralympic_Winter_Games_Emblem

The Winter Paralympics will, for all those watching around the world, continue to push the expectations of what we deem humanly possible. Such is the level of performance on show, the caveat of “for the disabled” or “for people with impairments” isn’t required in the previous sentence. We are fortunately past the time when the simple act of people with varying impairments playing sport was sufficient to garner praise, or even worse, have platitudes thrown around such as “how fantastically brave.” Elite disability sport is now admired against a generalised yardstick of excellence, and is not found wanting. Attitudes and rights for people with disabilities have changed hugely over the last 30 years; feats of athleticism, I would argue, have been a vital part of the reason why.

That sport has the power to change minds and perception of impairment is now openly acknowledged by disability sport organisations. The British Paralympic Association today use the nomenclature of being “a movement,” and openly discuss their intention to use large scale events as a battering ram to advance public perception of people with impairment, through the increasing visibility and excellence of world class sport. This drive for increasingly higher levels has been criticised in some quarters for excluding many of the more severely impaired athletes, alienating the wider disability community, and not providing enough grassroots opportunities. (These problems are often bundled together in the idea of the ‘Paralympic Paradox.’) These not inconsiderable criticisms aside, the fact remains that the Paralympic Games now are a highly visible force changing perceptions of disability. This has occurred however only for those allowed within the tent; namely those with a definable and classifiable physical impairment. Amongst the athletes competing at Pyeongchang there is still no place for those with an Intellectual Disability (ID). It requires a quick delve into history to explain why.

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London 2012 Paralympic Games ©Thomas Davies

From 1948-1976 the Paralympic Games (the the ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’) were purely for people with spinal cord injury; owing largely to the domineering figure of their founder Sir Ludwig Guttmann. ID was first part of the Winter Paralympics in 1992; with demonstration events in cross country and alpine skiing. The Barcelona summer games did not include ID athletes, instead a special event for ID athletes was held in Madrid, and at a price, also afforded the Paralympic name tag. Biathlon was added as a further demonstration event in 1994; before Atlanta 1996 and Nagano 1998 saw full medal involvement in a limited number of events. However in 2000, following a cheating scandal where it was revealed the Spanish basketball team had knowingly cheated the classification system in order to win gold, ID athletes were expelled wholesale as an impairment category. Dr Bob Price, head of the British Paralympic Association at the time, described it as an incredibly reluctant move, but unavoidable as the classification system was simply not robust enough. Re-admission was not to come until London 2012, following extensive work to improve the classification system, a crucial part of which is the requirement to quantify that there is a sport specific impact of the impairment, not just the presence of an impairment generally. Athletes with ID have then returned to the Summer Games; but in only 3 of the 21 sports (athletics, swimming and table tennis) in small numbers, and have yet to re-feature in the Winter Games, although it is hoped Cross Country Skiing may be included in 2022.

This exclusion means that ID athletes are missing out on the benefits of the Paralympic Games; for themselves as athletes by not having the highest level to compete at; and for the public perception of Intellectual Disability more generally. That it would be dangerous for ID athletes to compete, or that they would not be capable of the levels of excellence required, can be debunked by the Special Olympics Winter Games which shows that athletes were capable of competing safely, successfully and sufficiently swiftly. (The 2013 Special Olympic World Games incidentally was held in Pyeongchang.) Whilst the Special Olympics have a high profile, especially in America, they are fundamental different in ethos. Their focus on wider inclusion, to some observers, comes at the expense of the ability to significantly change perceptions on disability. And despite both being part of the ‘Olympic Family,’ Special Olympics and Paralympics have shown a reluctance to work together, understandable particularly on the part of Special Olympics, who would not wish to potentially lose their top athletes to other competition. So will ID athletes ever be a full part of the Paralympic games?

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2015 Special Olympics Opening Ceremony ©Eric Garcetti

Enter INAS-FID (The International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability) the most important sport organisation most people have never heard of, who since 1986 have been organising elite competition for athletes with Intellectual Disability. INAS has been integral at developing the eligibility and classification system for ID athletes, and pushed for inclusion in the Paralympics. It was INAS that organised the Madrid 1992 games that were to be so important for the initial inclusion of ID athletes. Following the exclusion of 2000 it was the work of INAS (with considerable support from the IPC) that established sufficiently robust classification systems to allow re-inclusion in 2012. Whilst only athletics, swimming and table tennis are currently in the summer Paralympic Games, the 2019 INAS World Games in Brisbane will showcase a greater number of sports, some of which are prime candidates for inclusion in Tokyo 2020, Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028. As for the winter sports, that the 11th INAS World Alpine and Nordic Skiing Championship have been held in February 2018 in Zakopane, Poland strongly indicates cross country skiing is ready for inclusion.

An invitation to the top table of disability sport really matters; for every athlete with a medal round their neck it is another blow to negative perceptions of people with Intellectual Disabilities. Come the Games of Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 it can be expected that more athletes with ID will be on the Paralympic podium; and the eyes of the world will fall, however briefly, on just how physically able athletes with Intellectual Disability can be.

Further reading:

For more on the issues around classification of ID athletes: Burns, Jan. “The Impact of Intellectual Disabilities on Elite Sports Performance.” International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology 8, no. 1 (2015).
Brittain, Ian. The Paralympic Games Explained: Second Edition. Oxon: Routledge, 2016.

Tom Weir

Why cricket is so important for Afghanistan

World Cups, IPL players and the introduction of Test Cricket. The amazing story of a war-torn nation changing the face of sport.

Liam Moore

World Cups, IPL players and the introduction of Test Cricket. The amazing story of a war-torn nation changing the face of sport.

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© By Spc. Michael Germundson

You would be excused if the initial thought of Afghanistan that entered your mind would be war. It could even be conflict, violence or corruption. Thankfully, the nation’s cricket team is changing that perception as they continue to rise to the highest level of the sport.

Many children dream of playing for their country; returning to their safe neighbourhood and having the leisure of watching live cricket throughout the year. For Afghans, this way of life is simply non-existent. Since the 1970’s, Afghanistan have been plagued with war. In 1979, The Soviet government invaded the country, propping up a communist government. They would occupy the land for ten years before moving on, allowing a civil war to break out.

In 1997, the Taliban were recognised by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as the rulers of the country. The organisation had over two thirds of the nation under their control and enforced hard-line Islamic beliefs. Two years prior to this, two Afghan refugees established the Afghanistan Cricket Federation (AFC) in 1995. Taj Malik and Allah Dad Noori were currently residing just outside of Peshawar, which was a popular northern city in Pakistan that many Afghan refugees settled in.

Unfortunately for the residents of the Asian country, the conflict did not come to a halt. After the terrorist attack that took place on the World Trade Centre in 2001, then president of the United States, George Bush, responded by launching missiles into Afghanistan. What followed would be years of conflict, as both the United States and the United Kingdom deployed troops into the country. Those troops are still present in war-torn Afghanistan, desperately fighting the Taliban – a conflict that has lasted for 17 years. It would appear implausible, amidst all the devastation the country has had to endure, that something sensational was quietly brimming.

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©Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=466186

1999 was a memorable year for the AFC. Stuart Bentham, who was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, was present in Afghanistan as he was on a business meeting. At the time, the Afghan national cricket team were training in Kabul. Bentham witnessed the team in action and was inspired to help the nation obtain better cricketing equipment. Once he arrived back in England he persuaded the MCC to donate, further supporting Afghanistan’s cause for international status.

The fall of the Taliban saw a lot of refugees return home which rapidly increased the growth of the sport in the country. In 2003, the ACF held their first trials for the national team. This truly was the start of something special happening to the country as the years that followed would bring much success.

Only 12 years after its establishment, Afghanistan had won its first tournament. The Asian Cricket Council T20 Tournament was an event for the lower ranked nations throughout Asia. Afghanistan were joint winners after their final against Oman finished as a tie. In 2010, Afghanistan recorded their biggest victory of that time after defeating Ireland for a place in the T20 World Cup. They had done it. They finally reached the global stage of cricket. Unfortunately, they didn’t win a single game of the competition. Nevertheless, this was a big stepping stone for the country.

From 2013, the progress the nation made was simply remarkable. Due to consistently good performances, Afghanistan were promoted to associate from affiliate by the International Cricket Committee (ICC). They also qualified for their first 50-over World Cup, beating Scotland to make history for the newly promoted country.

Three years later and Afghanistan were at it again. The 2016 T20 World Cup was hosted by India and Afghanistan won their group, beating all three teams. Their group consisted of Scotland, Hong Kong and Test-playing nation Zimbabwe. For the first time in their history, they had qualified for the second round of an ICC competition. They did not progress further, but they did give England a scare when they reduced them to 57-6 and they beat eventual winners West Indies.

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©Harrias  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11432547

These dates mentioned are imperative to understand the progress Afghanistan have made. However, none of these dates can compete with the event that took place last year. On June the 22nd 2017, the ICC introduced the country as a Test playing nation. For those who are not too fond of cricket – there is no higher status than being a Test playing nation. Many professionals around the world took to social media to congratulate the nation on its incredible progression. They are expected to play their inaugural Test match in 2018 and have become the first admission – along with Ireland – to Test cricket since Bangladesh in 2000, when Afghanistan were only five years old as a cricketing nation.

Despite being surrounded by war or being plagued with violence, Afghanistan have refused to bow out. The Telegraph reported that cricket was so popular in Afghanistan, even the Taliban were playing the sport. Speaking to Tim Wigmore, country captain Mohammad Nabi said: “It brings peace to every tribe”. So, it would appear cricket is beyond a sport for this small Asian country. Cricket has represented itself as an escape for many residents of Afghanistan who have become accustomed to daily violence.

Unfortunately, it is still no simple task for Afghanistan to play cricket. There is still conflict in their country and they are forced to play their ‘home’ games in the Indian city of Noida due to safety concerns. Debatably, there is one man who can epitomise playing professional cricket in Afghanistan better than any other – former New Zealand coach Andy Moles. Moles, who spoke to The Cricket Monthly, coached the team during the 2015 World Cup and his own submission of training allows one to grasp what life is like for Afghan residents:

“Sometimes you hear a boom go off somewhere when coaching in the middle. You see Black Hawk helicopters flying over the ground, going on missions and coming back. It’s Like coaching in a war movie. Actually, it is a very surreal situation because I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel scared when leaving for work in the morning.”

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©Master Sgt. Brian Boisvert https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39405576

The players the nation are nurturing are worth mentioning, too. Rashid Khan, a 19-year-old leg-spinner who is a key figure in the Afghanistan cricket team has completely taken the world by storm. He’s ranked first in the world in both the ICC T20 and One Day International (ODI) bowling rankings. The incredibly skilled youngster has already taken 86 wickets in ODI cricket. He is a role-model for young cricket fans in Afghanistan. They have someone to look up to, someone who they would like to emulate one day.

Afghanistan have been welcomed into an elite set of cricket nations and continue to rise. The accomplishments of those involved will always be remembered for bringing joy to a country that has suffered for far too .

Liam Moore

Irish born soccer players: chasing the dream across the water

The first in a fascinating three-part series focusing on Irish football players leaving their homeland to pursue a professional football career.

Ryan Adams

The first in a fascinating three-part series focusing on Irish football players leaving their homeland to pursue a professional football career.

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©JMSPORTPIX

Who wouldn’t want to become a professional football player? The designer cars, houses, watches and clothes; the glamorous holidays in paradise; thousands of fans singing your name on a weekly basis; being the envy of many men and women; and being publicly adored for doing what you love. Within the higher levels of the men’s professional ranks – it would seem – these people are living out their dream whilst earning in a week what many working class households would be lucky to earn in a year, maybe even two years. The perceived lifestyle of these privileged individuals has some understandable pull factors, which is why many young men will go to extreme lengths in pursuing this career.

When coming from a country that doesn’t offer professional football, however, chasing the dream may become somewhat complicated. In this three-part series for SportExamined.com, I aim to shed some light on the truths, challenges and pitfalls of Irish-born football players in the pursuit of their aspiration to one day make it in the upper echelons of the game. This first article will set the scene for the series with an outline of the nature of football in Ireland and what processes a player must endure to get an opportunity at a professional club; the second will highlight the experiences of many players living life as a football migrant; and finally the third article of this series will examine the challenges of players who were deselected prematurely, and what they face upon returning to their homeland.

Irish football clubs, both North and South of the border, have traditionally only been able to offer low-wage contracts to the islands best talent. Problematic league structures mean that Irish football is predominantly part-time – part-time wages, part-time coaching, part-time training and an overall part-time mentality. Thus, for aspiring football talent in Ireland aiming to successfully attain a professional career in the game, outward mobility is a necessity. These young players yearn to one day cross the Irish Sea into the footballing ranks in England or Scotland, which are the most common destinations for those deemed talented enough to warrant one of the very limited spaces at a professional club. The crossing of the Irish Sea has given prominence for the term ‘across the water’ to be used commonly within footballing circles in Ireland. Parents, coaches and significant others will often express how they believe their star player will ‘make it across the water’.

Crewe United FC - NI
©Sportexamined

However this is a highly coveted dream, and to merely even knock the door of a professional club, young players must consistently perform on the pitch from a very young age. Talent scouts, like in most countries, are tasked with visually examining the thousands of young Irish grassroots players hopeful of one day becoming the next George Best or Roy Keane. These scouts subjectively siphon through the masses in order to find a gem, a needle in the footballing haystack that may just be potentially skilled enough to make it at the club they represent. After a thorough and rigorous scouting process, in which the player is observed on several occasions, they will be invited to the professional club for a trial.

Preparing for a football trial is a daunting and nerve-racking experience for young players. This is exacerbated if the player must travel to another country in order to attend. At just sixteen or seventeen years of age, players will travel on a plane or boat to attend what is essentially an assessment which may define the rest of their entire life. These young men often partake in this journey feeling anxious and apprehensive about what the club will think of their footballing ability. When attending the trials, players have cited how isolation may become a factor both on and off the field. Trials are a cut-throat event and every player is a threat to one-another as they are all competing for limited places at the club. Being the only Irish-born player at a particular trial has its difficulties when trying to integrate with players of English and Scottish nationalities, especially if the other players already know and have played with or against one-another. It would seem the Irish player is often the outcast before the trial has begun. Of course this isn’t the case at all clubs, but with players being ‘thrown in’ to the trial without as much as getting to meet the rest of the group, the Irish-born player has little opportunity to develop a rapport with anyone.

Kit set out for game
©Sportexamined

Failures at this stage are more common than successes. Many will fall at this hurdle, being told by the club coaches that they ‘aren’t the right fit’ or ‘not what they are looking for’. Some players are fortunate enough to be offered trials at various clubs, whereas for others their only opportunity came once and they must hope for one day to be offered another trial. For those who are unsuccessful at the trial stage, the reality sinks in that they must start planning for a career outside of football. Having gotten a bite at the cherry and not progressed, players at this point will normally accept that football will merely be a pipe-dream.

Should the player be successful or indeed if the club believes they are talented enough to skip the trial process – albeit the latter is rare – there are commonly two possibilities. They will be offered a scholarship contract, formally known as a Youth Training Scheme (YTS); or they will be directly signed on a professional contract – again, this possibility is scarce. For individuals entering via the former, the aim is to be signed professionally after their scholarship which normally lasts a maximum of two years. For these players, they must start planning for life away from Ireland and into the precarious world of professional football, where a different series of challenges await.

The next article of this three-part series will shed light on the experiences of Irish-born football migrants whilst at their host club/country. It will examine the challenges of preparing to move away from home, living away from family, the issues many face in their new job, dealing with life as a professional footballer, overcoming boredom, handling injuries and how homesickness may impact on their lives.

Ryan Adams

About the author: Ryan Adams is a PhD student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. His topic specifically focuses on the post-migration experiences of Irish-born football players who have been deselected from their professional clubs. Ryan holds a BSc degree in Sport: Theory and Practice; and an MSc in Sports Development and Coaching. His previous research has focused on player development strategies within the Irish Football Association; and ‘pre, during and post’ migration experiences amongst Irish-born football players. He is also an amateur football manager, having previously managed in the Northern Amateur Football League and Mid-Ulster Football League in Northern Ireland.

Follow on Twitter: @Ryan_Adams11 – Any feedback, critique or questions on this article are welcomed.

How ‘active’ is physical activity for children?

Henry Dorling

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©Sportexamined

With physical activity being claimed more frequently as the way to ‘cure’ children of sedentary ‘diseases’ in society, how difficult is to address this at the grass roots, where it really matters?

There is plenty of information out there that relates to the problem we have in this country with inactivity and it is of particular concern in children. Studies have concluded that non communicable diseases can be attributed to inactivity and that the issue is becoming more and more prevalent, particularly in young people. There is a clear need for a more active culture to be encouraged in society which may go some way to address the issues. UKactive have recently published a ‘blueprint’ to make the nation more active, Sport England published ‘Towards an Active Nation’ and the Government have written a new ‘Sporting Future’ strategy but how easy is it to implement this kind of policy at the grassroots, where it really matters and makes a difference? If it is young people who need to be targeted with this policy then school based interventions, helping to increase physical activity and an awareness of the benefits, should be encouraged and supported. Pupils in a school setting are a captive audience and spend the majority of their time in this environment and so it would make sense to use this time to benefit their health and well-being. In addition some studies have shown the benefits of increased activity and movement to their academic attainment and learning, so it would seem to make clear sense to combine physically active and movement based lessons and activities within the school curriculum to benefit them in many different ways. However, my experience of most primary schools is a sedentary learning culture, a ‘table-centric’ approach to learning. Yes there is PE (but less than there used to be) and yes they go outside at break times, however there is much less, indeed in some cases a total lack, of integrated physical activity and learning happening within schools. Why is this the case if schools are arguably the best environment for things like this to work? There are many obvious reasons but there seems to be an issue with the opportunity for children to access more physically active and movement based learning in what is already a convoluted and test-focussed curriculum. Indeed in 2012 the Conservative Government announced more testing of 7 year olds in the curriculum and as recently as this month (February 2018) announced further testing of pupils’ times tables, all of which will hardly allow teachers and pupils the perceived time and resources needed for a more physically active curriculum. Although primary schools are enthused by more physical activity based interventions and programmes and are keen to be part of them, they seem less likely to be able to fully embrace those opportunities to their full potential due to how fixed their cultural ideals are or by how restricted the Government has made things for them.

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©Sportexamined

If we are to really make a difference and change the inactivity culture, we all need to buy in to it and in particular in a school setting, they need to be given the freedom to try things, to understand what works and make it part of everyday school life. They should not focus on core academic subjects and leave no room for anything creative, in fact it should be the opposite; make more room for creativity in the form of movement and innovative physically active lessons which incorporates the academic subject matter, not separately but embedded as one. Many schools reduce the amount of physical activity in their curriculum and replace this with extra core curriculum subjects, however it seems clear that more physical activity in the classroom will reap many clear and tangible benefits. At Solent University a programme called EduMove (Education through Movement) attempts to bridge the gap between policy and practice by using innovative cross curricular methods to embed a physically active teaching and learning culture within primary schools. This programme is reaching out to many schools in order to offer Teachers and Senior Leaders a framework to more easily implement and embed the opportunities and methods they so desperately know work, but are unable to find the time or resources to deliver.

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Unused PE equipment ©Sportexamined

Policies and new ways of thinking about the value of physical activity such as the Sport England and Government strategies are a great starting point and set out many clear and relevant policy recommendations around physical activity, but what is does not do like many policy documents, is look at how realistic these are to implement, and how it sits alongside other related policy. For example, along with the call for an increase in a whole school approach to physical activity perhaps it should also recommend less testing in schools, more focus on integrated models of teaching and learning, more training of teachers in physical activity delivery, more funding, less focus on Ofsted, less red tape, and more time for Teachers and practitioners to get children inspired with movement and physical activity and an understanding of the benefits it brings, as opposed to spending half their week on admin, planning and tests. We are one step forward to embedding physical activity within society with these recent policy documents along with other relevant recommendations such as the British Heart Foundation’s document on physical activity for children and young people or the Government’s Change4 Life evidence review however we will be taking a number of steps back if it is all too difficult and unrealistic to implement programmes such as this in schools and communities where it really matters and can make a real difference. If it doesn’t happen then are we simply seeing policy rhetoric that will fall flat due to a lack of understanding about how to implement? Perhaps the Government and others need some physically active learning strategies of their own…..

Henry Dorling

 

Links to documents and websites

NCD and inactivity study

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3645500/

 

Childhood inactivity

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2017/02/05/bjsports-2016-096933

 

UKActive blueprint for an active britain

http://www.ukactive.com/downloads/managed/ukactives_Blueprint_for_an_Active_Britain_-_online.pdf

 

Sport England Towards and Active Nation

https://www.sportengland.org/news-and-features/news/2016/may/19/sport-england-triples-investment-in-tackling-inactivity/

 

Sporting Future strategy

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/486622/Sporting_Future_ACCESSIBLE.pdf

 

BBC news article on study linking academic performance and physical activity

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16363467

 

Link to Nicky Morgan reference

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34700911

 

Times tables tests

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43046142

 

Link to Government report on what works in schools and colleges

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/469703/What_works_in_schools_and_colleges_to_increas_physical_activity.pdf

 

clear and tangible benefits

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-tj/Pages/ArticleViewer.aspx?year=2018&issue=01010&article=00001&type=Abstract

EduMove

www.edumove.co.uk

Southampton Solent University

http://www.solent.ac.uk

 

BHF Physical activity for children and young people

http://www.bhfactive.org.uk/young-people-resources-and-publications-item/40/475/index.html

Change4 Life Evidence review

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/440747/Change4Life_Evidence_review_26062015.pdf

Academic References

Stierlin et al. (2015) A systematic review of determinants of sedentary behaviour in youth: a DEDIPAC study International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 12:133

 

Haapala EA, Poikkeus A-M, Kukkonen-Harjula K, Tompuri T, Lintu N, et al. (2014) Associations of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior with Academic Skills – A Follow-Up Study among Primary School Children. PLoS ONE 9(9): e107031. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107031

 

Howie, Erin K. and Pate, Russell R. (2012) Physical activity and academic achievement in children: A historical perspective; Journal of Sport and Health Science 1 (2012) 160-169 Elsevier

 

Catherine N. Rasberry , Sarah M. Lee , Leah Robin , B.A. Laris, Lisa A. Russell, Karin K. Coyle, Allison J. Nihiser (2011) The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature Journal of Preventive Medicine 52 (2011) S10–S20 Elsevier

 

Jaimie McMullen Pamela Kulinna Donetta Cothran (2014) Physical Activity Opportunities During the School Day: Classroom Teachers’ Perceptions of Using Activity Breaks in the Classroom; Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 2014, 33, 511-527 Human Kinetics

 

Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2012). Impact of Physical Inactivity on the World’s Major Non-Communicable Diseases. Lancet, 380(9838), 219–229. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61031-9

Farooq MA, Parkinson KN, Adamson AJ, et al Timing of the decline in physical activity in childhood and adolescence: Gateshead Millennium Cohort Study Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 13 March 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096933

 

Bartholomew, John B.; Jowers, Esbelle M.; Roberts, Gregory; Fall, Anna-Mária; Errisuriz, Vanessa L.; Vaughn, Sharon; Active Learning Increases Children’s Physical Activity across Demographic Subgroups; Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine: January 1, 2018 – Volume 3 – Issue 1 – p 1–9