Most city children ignore the importance of physical activities

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  • Saturday, 02 May 2009

WHILE email ping-ponging on Facebook, an old friend of mine asked: “What activities get today’s youths out of the house?”

I really could not answer. I am not sure if it is because I am usually cooped up at work that I do not see much else happening, but there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for the outdoors among the new generation of youths.

I need only to think about my nephew Adam’s birthday party in March when my sister organised a small race around the neighbourhood a la Amazing Race and how the kids responded to the run from the nearby park back to the house (the pit stop, if you must).

These were kids in primary school – traditionally the most fit, I would imagine, considering all the energy they must have from running around – but they were wheezing, panting and on the brink of collapse after that 100-150m run (it was not even a dash).

Heck, the skateboard that I bought for Adam’s Christmas gift is barely scratched. Instead, his Nintendo DS is well worn.

I am not sure if this is because of new technologies, or because outdoor activities are not as popular as they were before.

As a child, I was not particularly athletic, but that did not stop me from fighting for my spot in the basketball game during physical education class (I was too short and never got picked). Or trying out for the hockey team (which I made into) or kicking the football all over the field, earning me the nickname tonjol!

Recently, I got excited reading a newspaper report that the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association (KLHA) was offering to help place anyone aged between 17 and 23 in a competitive hockey team.

This is a good step (better late than never, I suppose) because I know many people, like myself, who gave up sports after school because it was so hard to find a team to play for.

These days, I occasionally pop into the gym, and now pay for tennis lessons, but more for fitness than competition.

I do not think that I am personally good enough to get into competitive sports at state or national level, but I would probably enjoy participating in sports more if I had been encouraged to do so when I was younger.

I left school almost 15 years ago, and even back then, we had teachers who were more interested in finding shade during PE lessons than actually teaching us the importance of physical activities.

Which is why I believe that the KLHA’s efforts have to be commended and I hope other sports bodies follow suit (if they are not already).

After all, having grown up in the city, it is so easy for those in my generation, and the ones after, to fall into the trap of being unfit and unhealthy. Never mind that the generation before mine were couch potatoes, with computers, mobile phones and portable console games – it is so easy for city kids like myself to ignore the importance of sports and physical activities (watching football does not count).

Just last week, I witnessed a horrifying sight which, sadly, can be taken as an indication of the priority in which our education system, and youths, perhaps, hold sports.

Visiting my alma mater for her 50th anniversary celebrations, I was shocked to see the dilapidated condition of the tennis court at my former school (it was once a source of pride): the ground was battered, there was no net and the fence was half-torn. The patchy field also left much to be desired.

The consolation, of course, was that funds from the carnival were partly going to restore the sporting facilities at the school.

Many before me have lamented the sad state of sports in our country. We can only hope that today’s adults, including our new Youth and Sports Minister, who grew up at a time when Malaysia had great athletes, would remember what it was like then and want their children to have the same experience.

·Niki Cheong blogs at and Twitters at

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