From field to screen but no gain

Bangalore City Covid-19

Online school sports classes are not as effective as pre-pandemic offline sports classes.

Online school sports classes during the pandemic have become stressful and ineffective, according to parents, students and coaches in Bengaluru.

“The main problem with the concept of online sports classes is that it is unsupervised—I worry for her safety because I am not always around to make sure she is doing an exercise correctly or not. I don’t want her to get injured,” said Sumithra, whose daughter Dhrithi is a Grade 7 student at a private school in North Bengaluru.

Dr. Latha has been a homeopathic doctor for 27 years. She deals with children and adults who have ailments like asthma, anxiety and autism. “When I have child patients, I always emphasize on how important it is for them to play sports that improves the lung capacity. If online classes are unsupervised, this can lead to injuries for children—the muscle will get fibrosed. What this means is that the muscle cannot expand or contract and will be injured for life,” she said.

Coaches are aware of the safety issues and are equally worried. “We started having online sports classes for the children, but we had to stop it after one month because parents were worried about their safety,” said *Mariappa, a sports coach at a private school in South Bengaluru.

  • Before COVID-19 hit, sports was easy to teach since it was offline.

*Ali, a senior coach at Sports Authority of India (SAI) has been in the sports fraternity for almost 30 years. He believes that it is difficult to conduct sports classes online. “Sports is a practical subject. It is difficult for budding sportspersons to train online. We can’t train multiple people online the way we do on the field. Training online is not effective because it hinders the performance in sports.”

Parents have concerns about their children’s health. “Sometimes they are made to exercise right after lunch and I feel this is not good for their health,” said Sumithra.

Pediatricians also share the same concern. Pediatrician Dr. Krishnan said, “Doing sports after a heavy lunch meal is not good for the body—blood sugar levels rise and this results in fatigue.”

Some government schools have started offline but have still not moved their sports classes onto the fields because they want to adhere to COVID norms. “We have a theory book that is prescribed to us by the government. But the first thing the boys asked me when they came back to school was if they could play on the field,” said Vincent Paul, Physical Education (P E) teacher at St. Joseph’s Indian High School.

Parents who send their children to private schools are worried about COVID spreading easily on the field when schools reopen. “The nature of sports itself is such that it is tough to maintain social distancing. And with my child being unvaccinated and this new variant AY.4.2 spreading in Bengaluru, I am worried. I mean, how can they ensure constant sanitation of the area when there are multiple sports classes being held during the day?” asked Sumithra.

*Ali believes that there has to be a step-by-step approach to get things back to normal in the sports fraternity. “Since there must be a solution, I would say that it is better to organize two or three non-judged tournaments before the actual tournament—this could be for any sport and I believe it would really help sportspersons to get back on track.”

Gagandeep Singh, a sports psychologist explained the importance of on-field sports and how it impacts child psychology. He spoke about how important it is to have 30 minutes of exercise per day. He said, “Children play sports because they want to bond with friends—this teaches them life skills and fitness. But with online classes, I doubt the effectiveness of the very motive of sports. Sports releases endorphins—these are chemicals that the brain releases to remove stress. But sitting in front of the screen for so long doesn’t allow the children to move around and play. Lack of movement means that children don’t have motor skills as well—this also leads to anxiety, depression and stress.”

Parents also say that classes are not conducted properly. “Although their academic classes begun online in April, their sports classes begun online only in August. And when they did start, the classes were ineffective because they just ask students to watch a video and sometimes, the teacher is not even present. They don’t even ask students to switch on their web cameras. As a result, my daughter is not even interested in online sports classes,” said Sowmya, whose daughter Surabhi is a Grade 7 student at a private school in North Bengaluru.

Physiotherapist Dr. Shahnaz Hanif said that it depends on the capability of the instructor and how sharp he or she is. She also said that sports must be played on the field and not online because children like open fields. She said, “My daughter, who is a Grade 5 student has always loved sports—it used to be her favorite subject before the pandemic. But she dislikes online sports classes.”

“Above all, children need to interact and learn life skills. That is tough with online classes. They need to bond with their friends because at the very core of it, humans are social animals,” said Singh.