Guillem Balague, a UK-based Spanish sports journalist, was once asked for his thoughts on diving in football; his response was, “in England, diving is considered cheating, but in other parts of Europe it’s considered gaining an advantge for your team.” This comment made me want to look up the exact definition of cheating: act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage. The term by any means necessary comes to mind. So the question must be asked: What message are we sending our children when part of our society believes that it is ok to bend the rules to get what you want in life? This may sound drastic and one might wonder how this is relevant to my subject area. Believe me, PE does play a role, albeit a minor one.
When we talk about PE, we focus on students’ physical ability and the benefits of healthy living, but we should also think about students’ behaviour and the importance of guiding them toward the best, most appropriate choices. Team games are played/ learnt in which good coordination, technique and balance are required, but these very games also call for good communication, an accurate strategy (decision making), composure, and belief (in oneself and others). I would like to underscore the word composure because one of the hardest things a child has to deal with is their actual emotions. Given that adults sometimes struggle when having to make decisions in a heated situation, it is only natural to imagine the torment such circumstances may cause a child. Believe it or not, I, to some extent, get to see these situations on a daily basis. Watching students try to avoid making a mistake because they do not want to disappoint others or simply shy away from a situation because they think they do not have the appropriate skills to achieve a given goal is an everyday situation in my field. Seeing students take four steps forward to gain an advantage before it is their turn is just a simple example of how children find it hard to deal with situations which at times are beyond their control, and will try to bend the rules to achieve their goal (which in this case is probably finishing first). Here is the issue: How should we deal with the consequences when children are caught cheating? There are children who deal with consequences better than others, but what does that actually mean? That they do not get too emotional (which I assume for some could mean that they are mentally stronger) when being scolded or that they have learnt from their ‘negative’ experience and will oblige and respect rules? In my opinion, only time will tell. These moments could and will affect students for life. Making important decisions in life based on how one feels and fully understanding consequences is always going to be hard, but if children get an opportunity to develop these skills, I am sure that they will be at an advantage.
PE is evidently a less structured subject than others might be, and precisely because of this, students are required to behave slightly differently. Working with others in various scenarios can be challenging for children, especially when a student has been taken out of their comfort zone. It is, indeed, extremely interesting to observe their reactions when put into teams/groups with children who would not be considered their first choice. It is always essential to look at body language, be it positive or negative. Looking at the end result is another factor which needs to be taken into consideration. Students are given the opportunity to work on and develop skills which at such a young age are probably very ‘raw’ or even non-existent.
Below you will find an extract taken from a training unit called ‘Ethics and Values in Physical Education’, which is part of the ‘Physical Education and Sport for Democracy and Human Rights (SPORT)’ course, written by Claude Scheuer and Jean-Luc Thill:
‘Physical education or PE is an educational course related to the physique of the human body. It is taken during primary and secondary education and encourages psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting to promote health. (…) Physical education in school is the most effective and inclusive means of providing all children, whatever their ability/disability, sex, age, cultural, race/ethnicity, religious or social background, with the skills, attitudes, values, knowledge and understanding for lifelong participation in physical activity and sport. (…) It contributes to children’s confidence and self-esteem; enhances social development by preparing children to cope with competition, winning and losing; and cooperation and collaboration. It is increasingly being used as a tool in development, including recovery from trauma and conflict; and encouragement for school attendance and retention.’ (p19)
We can only hope that PE can help students make better choices in life.
‘Physical Education and Sport for Democracy and Human Rights (SPORT)’, Claude Scheuer and Jean-Luc Thill, 2015
‘Personal, Social and Moral Development through Team Games: Some Critical Question’, Andrew Theodoulides & Kathleen M. Armour, 2001
‘Making sense of teaching social and moral skills in physical education’, Jacobs, Knoppers & Webb, 2012, ‘Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy’, 2013
‘Physical education in schools: a global perspective’, ‘Kinesology’, Hardman, 2008
*Who would have thought that Rafael Nadal, tennis’ former number one, would cheat to win a match:
Mr Canto is AHI's PE teacher and is currently supporting Early Years' colleagues with their respective classes.