By Enjoli Liston
As the winter nights draw in, it’s not surprising many kids are keen to abandon outdoor sports for computer games.
In a groundbreaking new initiative, Southwark Council is using sports simulation games on the Nintendo Wii console to encourage children to take up the same activities in real life.
Boxing is a sport of agility, speed and serious fitness, but for the kids at Wii session on Monday night at the Damilola Taylor community centre it was also a chance to play fight without getting hurt or told off.
The 8-16 year-olds from schools in Peckham and Camberwell boxed on the games console using the controllers as virtual boxing gloves. The sparring partners boxed mid-air while their computerized characters fought onscreen.
The kids then returned to reality, swapping their controllers for boxing gloves and a taste of the real thing, with the supervision of qualified sports coaches.
Brothers Michael and Kyle Omola queued again and again for their chance to spar with sports leaders. “It’s brilliant,” said Kyle, aged 11. “You can practice on the Wii and then do it in real life – I’ll start coming down on Mondays now this is here”. Eight year-old Michael added: “It’s good because people can see you doing sports so they can discover that you’re good at something – we’re lucky to have it.”
Ten year old Tobi Akinade agreed, adding: “I like playing boxing on the Wii because it’s not about fighting, it’s about keeping fit,” he said. The kids are not limited to boxing. Tennis, baseball and dancing also feature at the popular sessions on Monday and Wednesday nights. “It’s a good way to keep active, especially now winter is here,” said 10 year-old Lamar Wojtczak, a pupil at St George’s School, Camberwell. “But you do get a bit sweaty!”
Nintendo Wii: How it works
Elva Sanchos, a sports leader, said the sessions have been “very successful” so far, with around 20 children attending. “They’re all great kids,” she said, “and they love playing on the Wii, especially when it’s with real-life sports”.
Pable Blackwood, head coach of the Southwark Community Sport Team said whilst encouraging children to keep active is an important dimension to the programme, there are many other reasons to promote sports for young people. Blackwood explained that many of the kids experience peer pressure to get involved in crime, but by offering them regular and fun sports activities the kids will have more choices and more chances to lead a better life.
“Through sports, we try to give the kids a better quality of life and higher expectations for themselves so they want to achieve. The Wii will hopefully act as a carrot to get more kids involved”.
Sessions are currently run biweekly at the Damilola Taylor Centre in Peckham, the Aylesbury Youth Club, the Salmon Youth Centre on Jamaica Road and Dog Kennel Youth Centre in East Dulwich. The council are considering extending the sports sessions across the borough.
For more information, visit www.southwark.gov.uk/communitysports