Giving kids a sporting chance

Giving kids a sporting chance

The women's volleyball match this past weekend has been the cause of much happiness and pride for many Thai people.

Last month we were so pleased with the victory of Nong May, the first Thai badminton player to win the women's singles final at the world badminton championships. The success of Nong May inspired everybody and encouraged parents to support kids of theirs who want to play badminton. An increase in the number of people taking out memberships has been reported at many local badminton clubs.

Year after year, home-grown sporting personalities have inspired the children of this nation. A decade ago, tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan was a hero for many of his compatriots after he became the highest-ranked men's singles player not just from Thailand but from the whole of Asia, reaching a career high as the No.9 in world tennis. Paradorn was also the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam. Tamarine "Tammy" Tanasugarn has been in the top 20 in both singles and doubles tennis. She achieved the highest ranking ever for a female Thai player. Paradorn and Tammy were idolised by Thai children and the two were largely responsible for making tennis into one of the more popular sports in the country.

Yaowapa "View" Boorapolchai, a taekwondo athlete who was a bronze medallist in the women's category at the 2004 Olympics, is another person who has impressed young Thais with the discipline needed to succeed in sport.

Another distinguished native son is Prom Meesawat, the young professional golfer who won in his age group at the World Junior Golf Championships in 1997 and again in 2002 and was Asia-Pacific Junior Champion on several occasions. Prom stands out as one of the most consistent players we possess. His success story has motivated many parents to get their children interested in the game, with kids as young as three sometimes spotted out practising their strokes.

Volleyball is also fast becoming a favourite with local youths.

I think parents should thank these individuals _ as well as all the other sportspeople that I haven't mentioned here _ because they are good models for our children, demonstrating by their efforts that there are many fields in which one can excel and that sport can even be developed into a career. (Another option to compete with all the singers and "stars" with which kids are bombarded daily on national television.)

Most children have a favourite profession. While some plan on becoming a doctor, soldier or police officer when they grow up, many others dream of being a soccer player. (The popularity of the Thai Premier League is on the rise even though the Thai national football team has never won any major match.)

Sport can assist children's growth and development and offer them opportunities to develop their physical skills and coordination. It also enables children to discover the importance of exercise, of having fun and of fair play.

All athletes need to work hard and self-discipline is fundamental to involvement in any sporting activity. And this is what we should teach our children, encouraging them to develop with the emphasis always being on helping them acquire self-discipline.

Kids need to be able to recognise the necessity of first dedicating themselves to any activity in which they hope to succeed and then striving to further their abilities in their chosen field.

I'm not a big sports enthusiast, frankly, although I've never missed any important match, no matter what the sport, and I always watch major sporting events like the Olympics.

Even though I've been planning to do so for a long time, I haven't yet taken either of my young daughters along to try out for some sport. But whatever game they do eventually choose, I will certainly facilitate their efforts and give them every support. Sports could be a very effective outlet for their reserves of energy. When I play games with them, I often get totally exhausted and am always the first one to call it quits. (Their favourite sports are football and swimming.)

We were having lunch at a small restaurant this past weekend and on the TV there was a programme showing a group of boys practising at a boxing camp. Pointing to the screen, one of my girls promptly piped up: "Mum, is that boxing? I'd like to learn boxing."

I ignored her comment but inside my mind was screaming: "Oh no, please, not boxing." I don't mind boxing. Honestly! I actually love watching Thai boxing, but it's just not the sport for girls.

Sasiwimon Boonruang writes about IT for Life.

Sasiwimon Boonruang

Writer for the Life section

Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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