Geezers Need Excitement

Friday 12th August 2011

Geezers need excitement. If their lives don’t provide them that they incite violence. Common sense. Simple common sense. – The Streets, Geezers Need Excitement

Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) is a talented musician, lyricist and poet but this lyric from nearly a decade ago seems strangely prophetic against the backdrop of the recent riots that have plagued England’s cities.

But wait; this is neither a music blog nor a politics blog, so why the focus on recent events? Well it is simple. Young people riot because they are bored. They riot because they lead unfulfilling lives. They riot because they are full of anger and unexpended energy. Now I appreciate that to say such things is to oversimply the incredibly complex set of conditions that caused the riots, and without trying to wash over the deep rooted social issues this nation faces at present, it is fair to say that today’s youth simply aren’t active enough.

I work as a teacher in a secondary school with a highly trained and hard working PE department who do a great job at motivating pupils and keeping them fit. But there just isn’t enough time allocated to it on the pupils’ timetables. Some pupils will always misbehave, lose focus and cause trouble, and I am not foolish enough to assert that a few laps of the athletics track would suddenly change this. However, most misbehaviour I witness stems from boredom and unspent energy manifesting itself in the classroom.

So here’s my suggestion. Every morning before lessons start, pupils do 45 to 60 minutes of a sport of their choice. It doesn’t even have to be the conventional football, rugby, hockey or netball. Why not offer others? Dance, aerobics, boxing (yes, I see the irony here), cycling and table tennis spring to mind. They then get changed and go to their lessons refreshed and focused. Schools could then be free to offer more structured and competitive sporting options after school or in PE lessons.

The positive effects of this would be twofold.

Firstly, the simple fact that children are active means that they are expending energy on something positive and don’t have much left for illegal and antisocial activities (smashing up the Adidas store and taking what they fancy, for instance). It also instills healthy habits in children from a young age, making healthier adults who contribute more to, and take less from society.

Secondly, a more subtle point. Namely that many young people suffer from a staggering lack of self esteem and confidence. I am convinced that a large number of those out on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham and London this week were young people lacking a purpose, a direction and a sense of worth. Learning and succeeding in a sport can help to change this. Not everyone taking part in sport has to become a world-class sportsman, but every young person should be made to feel like they have achieved something.

It’s not the solution but it’s a start.

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