Kids, Sport & TV
Something dawned on me the other night. I was sat down with my two boys. They are 4 and 7. We were watching the highlights programme on the Tour De France. I’d been watching it avidly each night for the preceding two weeks and then thought I’d sit the boys down to see what they made of it. Earlier in the race during one of the highlight programmes they’d interviewed somebody – I think it was the race director – who had said that his first clear memory of the Tour was when he was 7 when he had watched the whole race unfold. I was surprised to hear that, comparing my own 7 year old son, and thinking – would he really be that interested in a 3 week bike race? So the pair of them sat down to watch with me, and showed some interest, but not a great deal. I spent most of the programme explaining what the different numbers meant on screen, what the different jerseys meant and all the other idiosyncratic things that make up the race. The most telling thing though was that my 4 year old was thoroughly impressed each time one of the riders sat up and took his hands off the wheel to zip up a top or drink some water. He thought it was a genuine stunt. Goodness knows how he’d have reacted if he’d seen Peter Sagaan pull a wheelie!
Anyway, it dawned on me some time after sitting there with them that although they are growing up in a golden era of British sport (at the same time as Froome was pedalling to glory in France England were trouncing the Aussie’s in the cricket, we had a Brit on the verge of winning the Open, Mo Farah had just broken the European 1500m record at his first attempt, and the Brownlee brothers had been battling it out once again for supremacy at the top of the triathlon world. Not bad for 48 hours. And I am sure I have missed plenty) it’s also a world that is so FULL, and so geared towards short term fixes (like wheelies and other adrenaline based stunts) that something like the Tour will probably never again appeal to a 7 year old in the same way as it clearly had done in the past.
This got me thinking. If our kids are growing up interested only in wheelies and showboating sprinters like Bolt, how can we expect the aforementioned golden era to continue if they haven’t got the interest to sit down and watch Andy Murray slug it out over a 5 setter in a Grand Slam final, or even to sit and eat beans on toast whilst watching the final score at tea time on a Saturday (something my brother and I did without fail). Perhaps I am being a little impatient and doing a disservice to older teenage kids who are as engaged as ever in the world of sport, and at the age of 7 I was as uninterested in sport as my own son is, but I suspect that times have changed and it’s going to be more and more difficult to enthuse them about just how impressive it is that somebody can cycle around France at an average speed of nearly 30 miles per hour for 3 weeks, when they can watch the likes of Danny McAskill, impressive though it is, throwing his bike and body around a fantasy film set on Youtube.
With regard to my own kids I’m more to blame than anybody. I programme an adventure film festival and subject them (it’s market research!) to hours of such adrenaline films, but rarely sit them down and expect them to understand the ‘importance’ of endurance or even team sports. The Olympics is great in that it gives wall to wall coverage for three weeks which draws them in as the whole family sits down to watch a brand new sport, but they only come around every 4 years and in my book that’s a poor ratio. The rest of the time we get the same old programming: football, F1, Wimbledon, snooker, and a few other bits and pieces smattered in between.
Why doesn’t somebody produce more sport for kids on TV. A 30 minute round up aimed at kids on CBBC, with another on CBeebies. Is there such a thing? I did a quick search this morning and couldn’t find much. I remember Trans World Sport when was a kid. It was brilliant – a 15 minute summary of all the B-list sports, but it was shoehorned on a about 8am on a Sunday morning. If Sport England and co want to inspire the next generation perhaps they ought to be commissioning such a programme and persuading the BBC that they could drop one or two episode of Octonauts each week in favour of inspiring our kids to enjoy (and ultimately be good at) sport…