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Long school days 'hinder new sports stars'

The Local · 20 Apr 2012, 09:50

Published: 20 Apr 2012 09:50 GMT+02:00

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Under pressure to make life easier for working parents, schools across Germany are gradually beginning to extend the school day until around 3:30 or 4:00 pm for children from the age of six, replacing the traditional finishing time of 12:30 or 1:00 pm.

Officials from the sports world are worried about the long-term impact of this change on a country that previously nurtured the idea of regular after-school sports.

"There is a huge danger for the sports associations if they don't manage to get really involved in schools," warned Georg Wydra, head of the Sports Science Institute at Saarbrücken University.

Most regional states, which in Germany bear responsibility for education, have reduced the upper-school leaving-age by one year, to bring German graduates in line with other European nations.

But the move requires some longer days to cover the curriculum. "Sports associations clearly feel that pupils have less time," said Frank Obst of Hesse's state sports federation.

Germany ranked fifth on the medals table at the 2008 Olympic Games and has 91,000 sports clubs geared up for young people. Obst stressed that they provide the foundation for the nation's sports scene.

Boris Rump of the German Olympic Committee said so far there had not been a noticeable drop in the number of youngsters taking part in sports, but said sports clubs must actively try to get involved in schools to survive.

In practice, younger pupils rarely have afternoon classes anyway, and, if they do, they are not held five days a week, as afternoons are reserved for school sports or musical pursuits.

Officials also face challenges posed by shifting trends in the popularity of a certain sport, making it harder to attract children.

"Children are no longer coming to tennis, it is tennis which has to go to the children," lamented Michael Müller of the German Tennis Federation, saying that unlike other sports, it had not developed a strategy for schools.

"If I'm looking for a new Boris Becker, he can't start playing tennis at the age of 15," he added.

Concerns are also rife that competing at a high level with the potential of becoming a top athlete will take a hit if new school timetables have to be accommodated.

"Regular training three or four times a week becomes very difficult to reconcile with school," Olympic official Rump said.

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Young talent that has already been identified can rely on a network of specialised schools with adapted hours, but the fear is that the earlier stage of spotting a child's potential, risks being lost.

To recruit talent "you need a certain mass," Rump said.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:25 April 20, 2012 by jloweco
Give me a break. Other countries have clearly figured this out with a little thought, effort and flexibility for athletically gifted children - so can Germany. Change is clearly needed in this area, and everyone can and will adapt!
11:45 April 20, 2012 by lucksi
Well, we cannot have that.

What a world that would be, if we had no more soccer players who can win the final victory over Germany's enemies on the field of honour.

That is much more important than a reasonably educated workforce.

So, cut the school hours, lower the graduation requirements and let's play some sports.
23:21 April 20, 2012 by charlenej
We went to school until 3pm, had extracurricular sports until 5 or 5:30, went home ate dinner, did homework and were in bed by 10 latest. I don't understand what the problem is.

There is simply no excuse for kids getting out of school at noon. Who is supposed to be home? Oh right, mommy's not supposed to work. Because it's 1950 and everyone is fine on one paycheck. And women don't want to work anyways, right? Ugh.
13:01 April 21, 2012 by wolfgang60
Some are happy with one check, some are not happy with 2 checks that's why they do many things to trick their government to get many benefits as fast as they can. clever people ja?
13:48 April 21, 2012 by cappuccinoss
The latest children sleep 8:00 pm maybe some very important days 9:00 pm. But 10:00 pm to much for a child during school days. Anyway when they really implement the 4:00 pm that will be the end of many sportvereins
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