Friday 19 August 2016

Guest Post & Giveaway - My Campaign for less sport in school by Nicola Doherty - Booklympics

In the past few years, there have been various campaigns to get more women involved in sport, or to have more sport in schools. I'd like to start a campaign of my own for LESS sport in school – but more exercise.

My secondary school, like many girls’ schools in Dublin, basically offered two options for PE: hockey in winter or tennis in summer. I was totally useless at both so I spent most weeks either ‘forgetting’ my kit, or thinking up new ways to be ‘unwell’. However, when we were 16 we had Transition Year in which zaniness reigned and we did things like aerobics and trampolining. It was fantastic; we loved it. But then came fifth year (Year 12) and it was straight back to hockey-and-tennis. So I really did no exercise – bar running away from the ball – for the whole of my teenage years. Exercise was associated with cold, misery and feeling bored and really embarrassed.

But then, when I left school, something magic happened. I realized that I didn’t hate exercise; I just hated competitive sport. I took up yoga, and running, and started swimming more regularly and cycling everywhere. Now I’ve run three half marathons and I’ve done everything from Bikram yoga to ballet barre. And I’m not the only one. One of my fellow skulkers on the sidelines is now a triathlete; another is a dancer and keen open-air swimmer. In my latest book Love and Other Man-Made Disasters, the main character, seventeen-year-old Juno, is terrible at sport – but discovers an unexpected love of skiing. Not that all schools can offer skiing, but the principle is the same.

That’s why I wish there was a little less emphasis on ‘sports’ in schools and more on helping teenagers to enjoy exercise, by offering a real, all-round physical education. I understand that schools have to work within budgets but surely things like aerobics or dance or even yoga would be more cost-effective than sports, which require expensive equipment and extensive grounds? I also suspect these things would also appeal a lot more to teenage girls than the current regime which seems like a hangover from Victorian public school days. 

I’m not for a minute arguing that we should chuck out all sports. I understand that it’s important to invest in future athletes, and provide resources for a new generation of Andy Murrays and Jessica Ennnises. But we also owe something to the kids who are never going to make it to the Olympics, but still deserve to have fun developing a healthy, happy, active body.     

Nicola Doherty grew up in Dublin and now lives in London; she writes both contemporary and teen romance. You can follow her @nicoladoherty_ or at Her latest book Love and Other Man-Made Disasters is published by Orion. Order it from your local bookshop or buy it in paperback or kindle here

Thank you so much Nicola for this interesting but potentially controversial view point.

What you think, should schools offer less sport? More variety? Scrap it altogether? We would love to hear your views.

Anyone who offers an opinion on this post in the comments I will enter into a draw to win a signed copy of Nicola Doherty's Love and Other Man-Made Disasters (open Internationally). Please include an email or twitter handle so I can contact you if you in.  

If you are struggling to comment on this giveaway and I know some of you do, tweet your thoughts on the subject and I will copy you over to be entered.

Giveaway closes 23:59 on 26th August. Winners will be announced via email or twitter, and will have 7 days to respond.

Good luck. 


  1. I tend to agree with Nicola it's the type of sport/exercise that is important & encouraging kids/adults to be active in an enjoyable way. I was never a huge PE fan at school but reading Nicola's experience I can see with hindsight how incredibly lucky I was. We had the choice of Hockey, Netball, Athletics, Dance, Rounders, Swimming (school pool)& a fully equipped gym, Tennis, Badminton. It was an all girls school & very competitive which in a way was encouraging IF there was an activity that was suitable. I'm going back quite a few years so it might be different now!

    1. I loved PE at school, until the 6th Form when I was kicked off the Lacrosse team and then just lost interest.

      We had PE lessons 4 days a week I think it was, and had a similar assortment of sports on offer.

  2. I remember cross country in the cold, wet weather and would try anything to avoid. The school were I work offers Dance in the curriculum and is very popular also in PE aerobics is taught. It's good to diversify away from the big team orientated sports. I also think it's a good idea to encourage teens to walk to school if it's possible, it's a good social tool as well as free exercise. (@kraftireader)

  3. I was never a big PE fan, though I loved swimming which was offered so never forget my swim gear. We were very lucky and you could do pretty much all sports and really feel all schools should offer a variety of sports. The one I hated the most was cross country running. I'll never forget the fire alarm going off while we were swimming. All we were allowed to get was our towel and footwear and it was the middle of winter!

  4. Jess ‏@bookendsendings 2h2 hours ago
    @gilbster1000 I think when there are lots of students, it's harder to offer a range of sports, but it would be nice to give students (1/2)

    Jess ‏@bookendsendings 2h2 hours ago
    @gilbster1000 the chance to discover what sport works best for them, as then they will be more likely to keep doing it! (2/2)

  5. From Twitter:

    @ThisChickReads -

    Love Nicola's post, but agree only partially. While exercise is cool for kids and their bodies, and obviously they can have loads of fun, a bit of competitiveness is something which in my opinion they'll need to learn (that's the cost of living in 21st Century). They'll also learn team work and how to accept both winning and losing. However, I'm all for variety of sports, even better if kids can pick 2 sports (or more, or just one) from a list. But that requires too much investment ($ for teachers, playgrounds etc). PE was not my fave subject in school because we did all sports..OK maybe not all, but probably 7-8. For one month we'd play volleyball, next football, next basketball etc. Unfortunately for me, we didn't have tennis & I love tennis.

  6. I agree. I think schoolkids should have more options when it comes to P.E. When I was at school, it was always basketball because the class decided what we were doing each lesson on a majority vote. Seems fair at first, but not much fun for those who didn't like the sport. I think exercise class-style P.E. lessons would be worthwhile (yoga, pilates, kickboxing, etc) because these are really good for the body, and show kids that exercise isn't just a competitive activity.
    @RiaBlondie on twitter

  7. This is very interesting and I agree that schools should offer more options apart from tennis and hockey. I think I was lucky because when I was in school every term we had a different sport and the teachers would ask us for ideas. I remember doing the popular ones like football, basketball or volleyball but we also danced, did badminton, traditional sports (like street games our grandparents used to play when they were kids), table tennis... I can't even remember how many different things we did! And if you were horrible at one sport you knew it would end in 3 months and then you would start a new one so everyone was motivated enough to try everything! Alba in Bookland x

  8. I was never good at PE I school, in fact I hated it. I'm not in the least bit athletic and I hated having to do sport. I feel that it we had the option to go for a walk or just get more exercise in general then I would be a lot fitter now and I wouldn't have faced some of the problems health wise that I have. It as after I left school that they brought in swimming and gym visits. I think that younger children these days will have more opportunities for exercise and not just sport. #! @KellySpillane

  9. I absolutely hated doing PE at school, but with an obesity crisis we have to do something and try and encourage young people to move around and be active.


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