Pitching in: Derek Broadley, Bermuda Football Association technical director, hits the pitch with two youngsters from the BFA's youth academy. He believes teaching young people to be healthy and exercise is as important as academic lessons. *File photo by James Whittaker
Pitching in: Derek Broadley, Bermuda Football Association technical director, hits the pitch with two youngsters from the BFA's youth academy. He believes teaching young people to be healthy and exercise is as important as academic lessons. *File photo by James Whittaker
A decline in sports education in schools is fuelling a growing youth obesity problem in Bermuda.

As many as one in five teenagers are overweight according to a health report, which revealed that only Canada and the U.S. have bigger issues with teen obesity.

Bermuda football’s technical director Derek Broadley is among a growing number of people calling for sports to be given more attention in schools.

He said the amount of physical education in the national curriculum, both in England and Bermuda, has dropped by almost 75 per cent in the past two decades.

Most high school students now get roughly an hour of PE each week compared with up to four hours in the 1980s. Because of the way the curriculum is structured, it is possible for students to go through a calendar year without any PE lessons at all.

Mr. Broadley, a former educator, believes sport is not valued highly enough in schools and is an “easy target” for teachers under pressure to improve test scores.

He said teaching young people to lead healthy lives and helping them avoid diseases such as diabetes in later life is just as important as academics.

He added: “It has to be as important as Maths or English. The old adage of healthy body, healthy mind is something that has to be revisited.

Preach

“Whatever profession you end up in, if you are not healthy it is going to cause problems for you.

“Whether you end up in banking or business, appearance is important. If you are 150lbs overweight, how can you preach to anyone about anything. You have to respect yourself.

“I would love to see an increase in sport in the curriculum.

“I don’t think tenough time is dedicated to it .”

Mr. Broadley believes denying children the chance to play for sports teams as punishment for bad behaviour or poor academic performance is a bad approach.

He said: “That’s the wrong way to go. I don’t think kids value sport as much as they used to. “If my dad took my boots away from me it was the end of the world, if I did the same to my son he would probably go and play on his iPad all day.”

He said sports was rarely viewed within schools as on a par with academics — even though the number of sports and leisure-related professions is expanding.

Mr. Broadley added: “When I was head of PE in England four of my top footballers were banned from taking part in the London cup final.

“I went back and said the four best academic kids, who had not brought their PE kit for four weeks, ought to be banned from going to the Shakespeare play. The principal backed me in that case but too often sports isn’t given the value it deserves.”

Darrin Lewis, a former sports education director and now athletic director at Saltus, said sports is not given the prominence in the curriculum it once had.

Music

He believes a growing variety of subjects means PE has to fight with a host of different activities for space in the timetable.

He aded: “With the additional emphasis on maths and English, unfortunately PE, along with design and technology and music, have lost some time.”

Mr. Lewis, a former Cup Match cricketer who also represented Bermuda internationally, believes a greater emphasis on sports will help students excel in other subjects.

He said Saltus students get 50 minutes of PE per week on average.

But he said the school’s new compulsory extra-curriculur programme is helping to bridge the gap.

Students must enroll in at least one after-school activity per week, with the scope of classes on offer expanding under new head teacher Ted Staunton. They include rock climbing and Zumba dance lessons.

Mr. Lewis said: “If you give the students options they will find something they want to take part in.

“You have to have a consistent programme, not something that is on one week and off the next.”

Manny Faria, who runs the Bermuda School Sports Federation, said there is a thriving series of inter-school competitions in a variety of sports.

He added: “In terms of the after-school stuff it has not declined at all.

“We still get lots of kids at every tournament we organize.” Devarr Boyles, a former PE teacher at primary, middle and high school level, who is now the youth director at the BFA, said expanded extra-curricular programmes could provide a solution to the issue.

He believes schools could consider offering sports classes and a healthy breakfast before lessons.

Mr. Boyles said the BFA is willing to work with schools to help provide accredited coaches.

He added: “Often the problem is you have got two PE teachers and they can’t do everything. It depends on the level of interest of the other teachers.”

Licensing

The BFA did reach out to schools through its coaching licensing programme.

Mr. Broadley said he had run a course that would have enabled teachers to be accredited by the association’s coaching licensing programme.

He added that the course was well received but principals were reluctant to let their teachers take the test  in case it reflected badly on them as educators.

Mr. Broadley said: “I was amazed that line was taken.

“The aim was to help teachers get better. If you had a football programme, wouldn’t you want to know you had the best qualified person running it?”

He believes there is a strong case for enabling PE teachers to gain additional qualifications, outside of their teacher training requirements, and allowing students to specialize in sports at which they excel.

He said: “I’m all for a variety of sports at the primary and middle school level but if we want to improve standards we need to allow students to specialize at high school level.”