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School students who play sports tend to better Leaving Certificate results than kids who don't - one of the more positive findings from a new study of the Irish and sport.
Sadly, this is also one of the few positives. They did find that 'almost all' primary schoolchildren play some kind of sport which is great. But then ...the Drop-off.
Essentially what you have is a curve of loads of kids playing sport, then hitting college or work and getting distracted by those things and alcohol and everything else the world has to offer. Of course when you get older you look back and wish like hell you'd done more sport when your knees didn't ache but too late then!
The study - Keeping Them in the Game: Taking Up and Dropping Out of Sport and Exercise in Ireland - also found having fancy facilities doesn't help. It's all about interest and passion.
(Ahem, this is sounding very similar to the TEDx speech I missed out on giving two weeks ago, really great to see I'm not a nutcase!)
So, what else did they find? Girls drop out of sport during secondary school at a higher rate than boys - baffling. I've read so many reasons for this, everything from study to coaches who don't encourage them. It's very sad.
And this finding gets 'Duh! of the Year' - "School exams have a strong negative impact: students participate less in exam years and this has a lasting effect on whether they are active in later years."
Others reflect the irritating reality that work, family and other commitments do get in the way of being healthy. I'm guilty of this myself sometimes on a busy week - you can genuinely forget to exercise. So bad for you, but so hard to keep it going in times of madness.
And most worrying finding was the "widening socio-economic gap" as people from deprived backgrounds are less likely to have the chance to take up new sports as adults.
Finally I was very happy to see the report's author Dr. Pete Lunn, ESRI saying this (in the press release):
“The findings imply a need to change the way we think about promoting sport and exercise. We are good at getting children involved – it's keeping people involved as they get older that is the problem. The evidence suggests we could focus more on the major transitions in people's lives and try to make it easier for them to continue to be active.”