Physical education teachers key to improving state of sport: Gopichand

The former player chatted about how starting from the lowest rung could help reap rewards in the future.

Indian badminton national team coach Pullela Gopichand knows a thing or two about how to produce world-class athletes.

The 46-year-old, who has been at the forefront of the revolution Indian badminton has gone through in the past decade, appealed to schools to realize the importance of physical education teachers (PETs).

“Any support system cannot just think of pushing PETs out of the picture. They are an integral part of any long-term plans to make India a sporting superpower as they will be the first one to spot the spark in the kids at school level,” he expressed at the ‘Physical Literacy for Nation’s Development’ webinar.

“It is the PETs who play the lead role in pushing sports to the centre stage and this is where physical literacy also serves the cause in a big way.

“There is no substitute for physical activity for any age group," he insisted.

The session was pioneered by the ‘mother’ of modern interpretation of physical literacy, Dr Margaret Whitehead and the latter echoed Gopichand's sentiments.

“There is government-level support needed for more teachers, more equipment because it’s a key aspect for a holistic life,” she said.

Dr Whitehead, head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on Social Determinants of Health, also believed that any country must start at the grassroots and pay better attention to physical education at school.

Pullela Gopichand addressing the 'Physical Literacy for Nation’s Development' webinar.
Pullela Gopichand addressing the 'Physical Literacy for Nation’s Development' webinar.Pullela Gopichand addressing the 'Physical Literacy for Nation’s Development' webinar.

“As far as possible, youngsters should be given a whole range of physical activities- sports, yoga, dance etc. Physical literacy can feed into the Olympic movement,” she said responding to a query from Pullela Gopichand, who acted as the moderator of the session.

“Physical literacy is a disposition. It is like happiness, it needs to be nurtured.”

A slow burn process

Starting small was a recurring theme in Dr Whitehead’s session, who pointed out that it would take time for the process to bear fruit.

“You have got to have the belief, it won’t happen quickly. There need to be models created and then need to be spread and expanded,” she responded to The Times of India when asked about the challenges of implementing the plan.

“You need to hear feedback from the participants and take it step-by-step.”

Both Gopichand and Dr Whitehead also agreed on the fact that physical education had become far more important during the COVID-19 lockdown and especially in an era where electronic gadgets had taken over, confining people to their couches.

She advocated for parents to monitor and set limits for the time spent by their children on laptops and other devices.

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