7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
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The main focus of both the National Youth Strategy 2010 – 2020 (Национална стратегия за младежта 2010 – 2020) and in the National Strategy for Development of Physical Education and Sports in the Republic of Bulgaria (2012 –2022) (Националната стратегия за развитие на физическото възпитание и спорта в Република България (2012 –2022)) is sports and physical activity among young people.
2018 Annual Report on Youth (Годишен доклад за младежта за 2018) shows that hardly 35% of young people practice sports, and the other two thirds state they do not practice physical activity. The trends show that men are more active than women, however the share of young people who do not practice sport increase with the increase of the age.
Data show that gyms are the main place where young people practice sport – 42%, followed by outdoor sports grounds/ facilities – 33%. The gym is the main place for practicing sports in Sofia and district cities, while outdoor sports grounds/ facilities are mostly used in small towns and villages. According to the enquiry among young people, the lack of time is outlined as the major reason for young people not to practice sport – more than one third. 28% of them state that they are not interested, not willing, or do not need to be physically active.
The main priorities of the National Strategy for Development of Physical Education and Sports in the Republic of Bulgaria (2012 –2022) (Националната стратегия за развитие на физическото възпитание и спорта в Република България (2012 –2022)) are as follows:
- Physical education and sports in leisure time;
- Physical education and sports for students;
- Physical education and sports for people with disabilities;
- Top level sports.
Promoting physical activity of children and young people and ensuring opportunities for their involvement in sport activities are among the major priorities of the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS). MYS policy, measures and activities in this area are determined by taking into account the role of sport as an important factor of human development and the need to ensure opportunities for choice and access of people to practice physical exercises and sports. They are developed in accordance with the objective and the main tasks of the National Strategy for Development of Physical Education and Sports in the Republic of Bulgaria (2012 –2022) (Националната стратегия за развитие на физическото възпитание и спорта в Република България (2012 –2022)) and are in pursuance of the measures as set out in the Governance Program of the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria 2017-2021 (Програмата за управление на правителството на Република България 2017-2021), and in accordance with the EU guidelines and recommendations for promotion of health enhancing physical activity of young citizens.
With regard to ensuring better conditions and opportunities for physical activity and practicing sport by children and young people, the objectives, measures and activities of MYS are aimed at:
- Motivating children to participate in sports activities with view of improvement of their physical capacity, diversification and full-value use of leisure time.
- Ensuring conditions for children and young people to be physically active by practicing sports and opportunities for performance and development in sports.
- Using the role of sport for prevention against diseases, obesity, spine curvature disorders, intolerance, aggression, violence, use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
- Formation and development of social qualities of children – teamwork skills, tolerance, leadership, discipline, confidence, observing the rules and principles of fair play.
MYS funds the implementation of Grassroots Sport Development Program (Програма за развитие на спорта за всички) to support the activity of multisport organisations. The program provides opportunities for sport of representatives of different social groups, mainly children and young people. More than 200 sport events and competitions in more than 50 sports disciplines are realized on annual basis, involving more than 170 000 participants. The funds ensured for grassroots sports, children and young people are about BGN 5 000 000 per year.
Since 2016, MYS implements a new program for people for disabilities – Program for Development of Sports for People with Disabilities (Програма за развитие на спорта за хората с увреждания). MYS main objective is to improve the conditions and to provide opportunities for adapted physical activity and sports by people with disabilities as a factor for improvement of their living quality, rehabilitation and social integration. More than 60 sport events and competitions are realized under this program involving about 1500 participants in different towns and cities across the country.
In pursuance of the policy for promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyle of students from fist to twelfth grade in the Bulgarian schools, in addition to the compulsory physical education and sports classes, another class for organizing and staging sport activities approved by the Minister of Education and Science by proposal of the Minister of Youth and Sports is put on the weekly curriculum. There is an option to organize school teams that motivates students to participate in school games and other sport activities.
Two programs are implemented with regard to sport for students: Development of Students’ Sports Program (програма „Развитие на спорта на учащите“) and Sports for Children at Risk Program (програма „Спорт за деца в риск“). They provide opportunities to multisport organisations operating in the field of school, university sport and sport for children at risk, and to sport clubs to realise sport projects and to develop their activity on the territory of all municipalities in the country.
The Development of Students’ Sports Program (програма „Развитие на спорта на учащите“) ensures conditions for encouraging students to physical activity and systematic practice of sport. Programs objectives are to increase the number of school and university sport clubs subject to registration by the licensed multisport federations and associations for the purposes of improving their sport activity, and to increase the number of school and university students who practice sport actively. For the realization of this program, MYS ensures funds in total amount of BGN 350 000 which are distributed among the three projects – the one of the Bulgarian Student Sports Association (Българска асоциация спорт за учащи), Academic Association of University Sports (АУС „Академик“), and Bulgarian Sports Federation for Children and Youth at Risk. The government, municipalities, education establishments and sports organisations have initiated actions for full value and efficient use of sports facilities and venues by students. The number of school students, university students and children at risk involved in the project activities of the multisport federations and associations for 2018 is more than 10 600 in 26 sport disciplines.
Sports for Children at Risk Program (програма „Спорт за деца в риск“) is funded and implemented in 2018. The program is aimed at increasing the number of children at risk involved in sports activities by expanding the services offered in the field of sports and by extending the scope of involvement in sports activities. The program’s objectives are to encourage the government and local authorities, sports and non-governmental organizations to create appropriate and accessible conditions for sport, to ensure sports specialists, to improve the physical, mental and functional condition, and the social integration and adaptation of children at risk. The program activities create optimal conditions for improving the opportunities for practicing physical exercises and sports.
On annual basis, the Ministry of Youth and Sports provides financial support for staging School Games for students from 5th to 12th grade and School Games for adolescents with impaired hearing, vision, those with physical disabilities and central nervous system disorders. Their participation in school teams and competitions is a tool for engaging their leisure time, directing their emotions and energy to sport activities, establishment of healthy habits and prevention of aggression.
During the academic year 2018/2019 88 000 students in 8 sport disciplines participated in the competitions for students from 5th to 12th grade. The funds provided by MYS for the organization and staging of these School Games are in the amount of BGN 508 000. The number of participants in the School Games for students with impaired hearing, impaired vision, those with physical disabilities and central nervous system disorders in 2018/2019 is 330 in 11 sport disciplines, and the funds provided by MYS are in the amount of BGN 32 510.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports works actively and cooperates successfully both with institutions and civil and nongovernmental organisations. The Ministry of Education and all sports federations play a key role and facilitate the preparation and implementation of strategies and programs described in the previous chapters.
Last but not least, MYS also works with civil and nongovernmental organisations active in the field of youth, which give feedback, share ideas, opinions and views, and realise very successful projects in this field.