School sports lead to successJEONG YOUNG-JAE
The author is a sports writer at the JoongAng Content Lab.
A sound body makes a sound mind. Studies and experiments have long proved that constant physical activity during one’s childhood and teenage years can be helpful to developing intelligence and personality.
In 2008, a research team at Yonsei University’s sports industries studies department conducted an experiment on 3,000 high school sophomores. Half of the students had regular P.E. classes throughout a semester and the other half did not. The team regularly observed and compared the mental health of the two groups. The first group outperformed the other by an average of 30 percent in nine subcategories.
At Naperville Central High School, located just west of Chicago, school starts with an hour of gym class at 7:00 a.m. After a full semester of mandatory exercise every morning, reading and understanding improved 17 percent on average against the beginning of the school year.
In Korea, few high schools have regular P.E. class. Two to three hours a week, at best. Students do not have enough time to relieve their stress from their excessive workload and competition.
The emergence of after-school sports clubs since 2008 has been a small comfort. Students can choose a sport and form teams for competition. Both traditional ball games — soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton and table tennis, as well as new sports such as tee-ball and free tennis — are available. Frisbee, jump rope and cheerleading are also popular.
Students can compete in regional competitions arranged by 17 city and provincial educational offices and can move onto national contests.
This year marked the 12th nationwide competition. Around 21,740 students participated in 210,000 matches across 20 different sports. According to a poll by Korea Institute of Curriculum and Education in 2016, over 3.7 million students were engaged in a minimum of 17 hours in after-school sports clubs during a semester.
Sports club activities and performance also should be reflected as their extracurricular achievements when students apply for colleges. The Council of School Physical Education Promotion launched an online data system on school sports club this year. The electronic system stores and manages all the performances of all athletes in nationwide competitions. Ewha Womans’ University counts the performance and achievements of sports clubs in their admissions process. More schools should join to help to grow P.E. across the country.
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