Inactive kids need support

Obesity and inactivity amongst
Cayman children is really topical again since a recent study revealed that kids
here are in danger of dying young because of those factors.

Swimming coach Dominic Ross has
some of the fittest children in his programme.

He would love to see more joining
his burgeoning swimming team that won nine medals at the CARIFTA Games in Jamaica
last month.

How have we reached this state? Ross
said: “A possibly endless number of factors have helped us reach this
unfortunate state. Anything from affluence – the seeming ease with which our
children come upon things such as video game systems, motorized scooters, fast
food – to a lackadaisical approach to raising our own children and taking
ownership of and responsibility for them.

“For varying reasons they are often
left to their own devices and given the choice, choose air conditioned rooms
and big screen TVs over exercise and outdoor leisure activities.

“There is sufficient or at least
close to sufficient time scheduled for physical activity in the high schools.

“The issue that always seems to
rear its ugly head is a lack of support for staff when they attempt to enforce
any type of punishment on those who choose not to participate.

“Much of this problem seems to lie
with the parents of these students who often make the excuses for their
children and quite clearly do not see the importance and necessity of their

“I think there is certainly room at
the primary level for an increase in the time allocated for activity. My
feeling is that it should perhaps be less structured and less sport specific
and more geared towards the development of motor skills.

“At the primary level physical
education should be increased. It needs to be an integral part of the curriculum
and not “a distraction” as it was once described to me by a primary school principal.

“At the secondary level the issues
regarding participation, or lack thereof, need addressing immediately.

“There are countless programmes
available from the Department of Sports and many of the sporting associations,
after-school clubs, and other voluntary organisations.

“There is no excuse for any child
in the Cayman Islands not to be taking part in at least one.”

The Lions Pool has been hugely
successful in involving the schools. This term alone the pool is being used for
a total of 27 school classes each week, mostly from the various high schools.

With the kind and generous help of
the Reef Resort in East End, coach Paula Swaby has managed over the past two
years to implement classes for both East End and North Side Primary Schools.

Ross added: “We look forward to
being able to expand this once the pool has been completed at the Clifton
Hunter Campus in Frank Sound.

“Some schools are found to be more
receptive than others but for the most part all try their best to schedule
swimming lessons at some point in the year.

“Given the current facilities it is
impractical to think that we would actually be able to fully cover the swimming
element of the national curriculum which states that swimming should be
mandatory for keystage 1 and keystage 2 students.

“I suspect the challenges we face
in this regard and shared by other sports also.

“A clear distinction needs to be
made between sport and leisure. Not everyone will be sporty but that does not
mean they cannot be active.

“Leisure activities should be
marketed as such and promotion directed at those who may not be inclined to
participate in competitive sporting activities.

“Too much emphasis is placed on
performance and results from an early age. The focus must be on participation
at an early age and in to the early teen years as well.

“Demanding high performance and
results will only be off-putting to a majority. It has to be fun for kids to

“Of course everyone loves the
accolades and awards – including the media – and while this motivation will
indeed be sufficient for some, most will require an understanding of the
intrinsic motivational factors in order to clearly see the benefits of

Gill Comins is the physical
education teacher at St. Ignatius Catholic school. Outside of school hours she
plays many sports and competes in triathlons as well.  

“Cayman has many young people
regularly active in physical activity several times a week which is fabulous,”
says Comins.

“However, we also have a large
number of students who are driven to school (some even starting the day with a
fast food breakfast!) collected from school by car and go home to spend hours
in front of the television or computer.

“Many students are never actually
physically active for 30 minutes or more beyond their physical education

“I would love students to be active
each day. It is very pleasing to see an ever increasing number of students at
St. Ignatius playing football, basketball and generally running around on the
school field at breaks and lunchtimes.”

There is a children’s health task
force doing a food pilot at John Gray, is there a need for something similar
for exercise?  

“I think that the two have to work
hand in hand,” says Comins. “I personally do not like to see fast food on a
school campus and I think this could be one area to address as a start.

“There are many opportunities for
children to be active and take part in sport but we also need to just have a
look at opportunities in our everyday lifestyles.

“Perhaps occasionally walking
places instead of driving, family outings on bicycles. Possibly a cycle lane
network in Cayman.

“We could also get local role
models involved in order to give the children of Cayman something to aspire to
and let us educate them. We have discussed healthy eating quite a lot recently
and it would appear that the students are keen but perhaps need some direction
in their choices.”

Track and field technical director
Kenrick Williams said: “There are a lot of factors that we have to take into
consideration. One is from the home and another is when the kids come to the
school what they provide for them and also on the way back from school what
they stop and eat, especially all that fast food.

“If we can tackle all those factors
then we are half way to solving the problem. We also need more activity and
time with the kids.

“I could come to the track twice a
week and have all the obese kids and do some training and we would monitor

“No kid should be fat or obese in
Cayman. Just like ‘No Kids Left Behind’ we need a campaign to get them really
motivated and to come out and work.

“Cayman is surrounded by water,
there are so many beaches and lonely roads which I wouldn’t want the kids to go
out on their own, but they can set up a programme and parents can let their
kids walk, jog, cycle or swim. There are so many things we can do in this small
country to help obesity levels here.”

Olive Morrison is the mother of
Chantelle who won the girls Under-17 100 metres at the CARIFTA Games last
month, Cayman’s only medallist.

Olive said: “Cayman has a problem
with obese and inactive kids. I think we need more kids to come out and be like

“She is alone in her training so we
have to get more out. There is a lot of talent out there so we need the parents
to come out and support them in their training.

“I know it’s hard. I have to go to
work, pick up the kids and take them to training, but you have to. It’s like a
discipline and needs to be a part of your daily activities. You can’t just drop
them at the coach and tell them to go win medals. You have to see what they’re
doing, how they’re being disciplined and support them.”


The swimming programme is one of Cayman’s best.
Photo: Ron Shillingford