Par­ents? Time to play games master

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Mar­cus Army­tage

Home school­ing, at least, gave the chil­dren some struc­ture to their day, but a week into the hol­i­days, ap­a­thy and a cer­tain sort of Mediter­ranean man­ana have taken over; if it can be done to­day, do it the day af­ter to­mor­row, next week or next month.

That nor­mally does not hap­pen un­til the end of the hol­i­days. But with two out of my three chil­dren now teenagers, who like play­ing com­puter games with the cur­tains drawn in a dark­ened room on a sunny day (why?), I am half in­clined to think it is a stage rather than just the crazy days in which we are liv­ing.

But while I can cope with a cer­tain en­nui about read­ing set books, meal times and do­ing their fair share of chores about the place, it is, given we are by na­ture a sporty fam­ily, their ap­a­thy about ex­er­cise I am find­ing less easy to deal with.

Lock­down has, es­sen­tially, di­vided the na­tion into two groups; those who are spend­ing the time once de­voted to com­mut­ing or trav­el­ling in a car tak­ing ex­tra ex­er­cise, and those, per­haps with­out their gyms, who are do­ing far less.

It seems to me that with­out school, where team games or break-time foot­ball gets them fit with­out them re­ally know­ing it, for a large part of this sum­mer, with­out mates from out­side the fam­ily, a gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren are slid­ing into the “do­ing less” cat­e­gory. It can­not just be my own, and it is up to us to stop the rot.

That means tak­ing on the role of games master on top of ev­ery­thing else, be­cause I am find­ing the best way to get ac­tion out of them is to do it with them.

Want them to go on a two-hour bike ride? You have to go with them and, as it were, ride the lead horse. Want them to go for a run? Get your jog­ging shorts on be­cause they all want to beat Dad. Want them to play ten­nis? Get your hands on the best racket first.

My son, 15 years old, 15ft tall, will get a wake-up call (lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally) to­mor­row when he plays cricket for the lo­cal vil­lage away to Did­cot, the once-thriv­ing com­muter hub where the only pas­sen­gers can just about flag their own trains down now.

With­out hav­ing played for al­most 12 months, save a few win­ter nets when school still ex­isted, he has been moved two teams up­wards. We will find out to­mor­row if such pro­mo­tion is war­ranted or just due to a short­age of play­ers, al­though prac­tice-wise they must all be in the same boat.

I am not sure what will be longer, his hair or his run-up, or shorter, his breath or his stay at the crease, but, ei­ther way, it will peel him away from a screen for the day.

The one con­stant at home has been the ponies, al­though I have never re­ally counted an hour on horse­back as proper ex­er­cise un­less it is on a gal­lop­ing race­horse. Granted, it is marginally more tax­ing than sit­ting in an arm­chair, but at least it gets them out in the fresh air.

At Christ­mas, hav­ing sworn to my­self I would never have a mare on the place, I spent more on a fe­male racing pony than I have ever spent on a car (not dif­fi­cult, ad­mit­tedly) to im­prove my daugh­ter’s chances and, hope­fully, give her a more reg­u­lar hope of win­ning and, there­fore, a leg up into the world in which she wishes to work af­ter school.

We al­ready had the res­cue job, The Bisky Bat, who is do­ing well at teach­ing her as much as a slow horse can, and, al­though it means I have to ride one of them, train­ing two ponies is eas­ier than train­ing one, be­cause they can keep each other com­pany on the gal­lops.

We kept the ex­pen­sive new one in re­serve when the ground was soft, plan­ning a late spring­sum­mer cam­paign on the faster ground she likes. But, with no sign of pony racing start­ing again un­til at least Septem­ber, the Fer­rari, as it were, re­mains in the garage (the only ben­e­fit be­ing that there is less chance of it be­ing pranged or get­ting a punc­ture).

I am less wor­ried about the nine-year-old. She seems to spend most of the time cartwheel­ing around the place in a world of her own. In many ways, I wish I could do the same.

Pitch­ing in: If you want to get your chil­dren to ex­er­cise, it seems Dad or Mum must also take part

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