Czech sports union head: We fear some children may never return to an active lifestyle

One of the tight restrictions that remain in place following an easing of Covid measures on Monday, is that no more than two people can gather indoors and out. However under pressure from sports associations, which are eager to get young people back onto sports fields, the government has agreed to allow limited training of up to 12 persons in groups of two, on condition the groups keep a safe distance of 10 metres from each other.

An overly optimistic prediction that as many as twenty people could engage in sporting events as of Monday had sports clubs planning football matches and people booking time at sports facilities. The news that due to fears of the possible spread of the Brazil mutation, the health minister was backtracking on his plans at the last minute elicited angry protests from sports clubs around the country. Negotiations with the government on Sunday night resulted in a compromise allowing up to 12 persons to train on a sports field in groups of two, which must keep a safe distance from each other. Some have ridiculed the idea as nonsensical, but Jan Boháč, head of the Czech Sports Association, says that any move in the right direction is welcome, particularly if it will get children back on the playing field.

Jan Boháč | Photo: Czech sports union

“A smart coach can work under those conditions. The important thing is that this will get the kids back on the playing field; that they will be in contact once again. Of course they won’t be able to play a football match, but they will be exercising, cheering each other on, competing in how good they are and getting back in shape. It’s a step back to a normal life – not just sitting at their computer and communicating online.”

Jan Boháč says that the year-long pandemic has negatively impacted the mental and physical wellbeing of many young people.

“We have not done any research into this area ourselves, but doctors report that children as well as grown-ups have been putting on a lot of weight because of their sedentary lifestyle this past year. We see a growing apathy in the young. Even in the way they respond to directions. An active lifestyle is extremely important for a young person‘s development and most young people are naturally active. But being cooped up at home for over a year without social contact has changed their behavioural patterns and we are seriously concerned that some of them may never return to an active lifestyle, because they have grown accustomed to sitting on the couch and doing things online.”

Photo: blende12,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0 DEED

Lower graders returned to the classroom on Monday. However one subject that has not been brought back is gym, because schools say it would be impossible to fulfil the required safety norms. While some see this as a minor complication, given that children can exercise or in-line skate individually, Jan Boháč disagrees.

“This is true of grown-ups, not kids. Kids need the social aspect, they need to motivate each other. That has been dramatically lacking and will be hard to restart. I disagree with the view that if gym lessons could be put on hold for a year, they can wait for another month or two longer. At a time when we have the benefit of tests there is no excuse not to bring back physical exercise. So as soon as conditions allow we will push for gym lessons to be brought back and in the first phase we would like to see more of them. It will also be necessary to make sure that all available sports facilities indoor gyms and outdoor playing fields be made available until the late evening hours so that kids can make use of every spare minute to make up for the time lost.”