7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
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The Cyprus Sports Organisation (CSO), as the supreme Sports Authority in Cyprus, provides services through its National Schemes to sports federations, sports clubs and citizens, aiming to promote extra-curricular physical education and healthy living through sports in Cyprus.
The Strategy of CSO 2020 entitled ‘Right to Exercise- Citizens in action” (Δικαίωμα στην άθληση- Πολίτες εν δράση) comprises the official action plan released by the CSO for the period 2010-2020 on the topic of Sport, youth fitness and physical activity which promotes the following strategic goals for Cyprus:
1. Maintaining a competitive level of action in International Sporting Competitions both at the level of performance and at the level of managerial positions.
2. Developing enlarged Sporting Programmes of physical activity for the promotion of citizens’ health regardless of age or gender.
The Strategy is developed through 8 Key Performance Indicators (KPI), each of which is being broken down and analysed for all the years covering the period 2010-2020. These KIP cover the following areas:
- Improvement of Sport Infrastructure
- Support of Competitive Sporting Programmes
- Development of Non-Competitive Sporting Programmes
- Social role of Sports
- CSO and the European Union
- Administration and Management
In its entirety the ''Strategy of CSO-2020'' makes no explicit reference in its agenda to Cyprus’ youth. However, this target group is integrated into the respective goals which are directly targeting the citizens’ involvement. Further on, in terms of the current monitoring process or evaluation of the strategy as well as any reforms proposed, no available information is provided for the time being. At the same time, the strategy makes no clear reference to the EU Physical Activity Guidelines, however monitoring and implementation of the EU Guidelines is highlighted through the KPI on ‘CSO and the European Union’.
CSO’s Strategy is incorporated in the Action Plan of the National Youth Strategy who sets Health and Well-being as one of its eight fields of actions, as well. Specifically, the priorities of the National Youth Strategy that concern sport and physical activity are:
1. Develop and promote further programmes of recreational activities and sports and
2. Encourage a culture of physical activity and positive attitude towards sports.
The main programmes of the CSO agenda that promote sport and physical activity among young people in Cyprus, and which subsequently support the Strategy of CSO 2020, are the following:
Sports for All(ΑθλητισμόςΓιαΌλους): The “Sports For All” Mass Sports Programme , which operates since 1985, aims towards encouraging citizens to practise healthy sports and offers fitness, health, happiness, and entertainment to the general public. As stated in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth Annual Report 2019, the Programme focuses on achieving its sport, social, cultural, educational, and recreational mission. In the context of this programme, the participants may develop consciously a variety of motor skills while practising physical activity not in the spirit of rivalry or competition, but in the spirit of doing exercise for fitness, with others, enjoying human contact and improving their psychosomatic health. The Programme is applied in various target groups, from pre-school children to third age persons, people with special skills and minority groups.
This programme’s vision is to help the great majority of the population in Cyprus to get involved in sports, benefit from physical activity and provide all the citizens no matter of their ethnicity, sex, age, social position, mental or physical status, education, body integrality, economic standing and social stratum with equal sport-practising opportunities
The main objectives of the Programme are:
- Life-long physical activity and exercise.
- Improvement of the physical and mental health of a person.
- Forming a character and developing a personality in the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship.
- Sport education of people and mainly of children aiming at eliminating violence in sports.
- Encouraging a healthy hobby for youth, helping young people to avoid bad habits, reducing crime rate, avoiding the use of drugs and other social problems.
- Social cohesion, tolerance and understanding among citizens in the context of physical activity Programmes.
There are more than 550 sports centres that operate in the government-controlled areas of Cyprus (urban and rural), 15 000 members of all ages (children and adults) that participate in the programme and 94 Trainers and Administrative Staff who provide their services. . The overall cost of the Programme amounts approximately to €2 000 000 per year while the income from the Programme amounts to €1 300 000 which comes from the annual subscriptions that the participants pay. No available information is provided in regard to the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of the programme. The ‘Sports for All’ Programme involves the following:
- Programmes for Children
- The “General Physical Activity” Programme: This programme addresses all children attending Elementary Education and has as a key aim to help them turn to physical activity and experience it. It includes basketball, football, handball, volleyball and athletics.
- The Specialized Programmes: These programmes run the sports that cannot operate in terms of the “General Physical Activity” programme and they are conducted in specially designed sports areas. They are addressed to children wishing to be constantly involved in their favourite sport practising, which becomes eventually the choice of children who are gifted with special sport skills. This Programme provides the participants with the opportunity to take part in regional, district and Cyprus-scale organized games. The programmes operate sports, such as Gymnastics, Tennis, Taekwondo, Dancing, Judo, Karate, Child and Swimming, Football, Volleyball, Basketball, Futsal, Beach Volley, Archery, Badminton.
- Swimming courses: The “Child and Swimming” Programme is operational during summertime and all children are given the opportunity to learn how to swim properly. The courses are expanded in all the cities and in the countryside.
- The “Early Childhood Education” Programme: It addresses pre-school children aiming at helping them to get involved in physical activity while playing.
- Sports Events: These aim to enhance the competitive activity of the children that participate in the Programme, to cultivate the sentiment of fair play and to support and promote youngsters with special athletic skills through the organization of local regional and local championship (Handball, Basketball, Football, Cross-country race, Athletics, Volleyball).
- Programmes for Adults
The citizens can choose the programme that meets their expectations and the most convenient place to attend the sessions. The following Programmes are operational: Aerobics, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Pound, Adapted Gymnastics, Basketball, Volleyball, Swimming, Tennis, Futsal, Hapkido.
- Social Sports Programme
Implementing the philosophy of the “Sports for All” Programme for providing equal opportunities to sports for all people, regardless of sex, age, origin, body constitution, economic strength and physical integrity, specialised programmes are provided for either students who attend the Special Schools around Cyprus or persons (children or adults) with various disabilities like physical, motor or sensory. In addition, the programmes address third age people, persons with psychological problems, chronic diseases, persons who undergo drug rehabilitation or children belonging to these families. The above stated vulnerable groups may participate in these programmes free.
Programme “Support for Vulnerable Populations” (Σχεδιασμός "Στήριξη Ευάλωτων Ομάδων Πληθυσμού"): The purpose is to provide customised physical activity services or the supply of sports equipment for the needs of organized bodies of people with disabilities and people with chronic diseases who are exercising. The programme is run by the CSO and the Cyprus Confederation of Organizations of the Disabled (Κυπριακής Συνομοσπονδίας Οργανώσεων Αναπήρων). The annual budget of the programme is €20 000 and it runs on a permanent basis.
Support Scheme for Young Champions of Individual Olympic Sports : CSO has initiated since 2005 a National Support Scheme for Young Athletes of Individual Olympic Sports in order to become the cornerstone for a successful and long-lasting course for professional young athletes. The direct purpose of the Support Scheme is to reinforce young champions by offering every possible technical, scientific, psychological and financial support. In 2018, the Scheme was operational for eleven months (January – September) with an approved budget amounting to €221 500. However, the amount spent was eventually €214 230. No available information is provided in regard to the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of the programme.
The National Programme of Supportfor Developmental Sports (N.P.S.D.S.)(Εθνικό Σχέδιο Υποστήριξης Αναπτυξιακού Αθλητισμού): This programme was established by the CSO in 1998. The N.P.S.D.S. supports the bottom-line sports, and more specifically, organized groups which practice sports through all the stages of growth and development by supporting their Clubs/Associations/Groups in specific sectors. In 2018, two sectors were supported in the context of this programme for competitive sports in a technocratic approach: The SPORTS through DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES to support children until the age of 16 and the SPORTS for TEENAGERS to support children from 16 - 18 years old. This Programme covers also additional sectors like training, scientific support, evaluation, better use and incentives. The budget of the N.P.S.D.S. for 2018 was €1 239 021 and the final expenditure reached €1 245 153, as it is stated in the MOECSY Annual Report 2019. In addition, the ‘Operational Guide’ of the programme mentions that the monitoring and evaluation of the programme is conducted by the responsible officer of the CSO as well as the regional inspectors who conduct visits to the Clubs/Associations/Groups in the island using specific templates that are provided in the relevant operational guide.
Programme of Physical Training at the National Guard and Security Corps (Σχέδιο κριτηρίων αξιολόγησης στρατεύσιμων αθλητών ατομικών και ομαδικών αθλημάτων): This programme runs by the CSO since 1999 and covered a budget of €580 000 for the years 2017-2019 as well as €640 000 for 2020 as an additional training scheme for the armed guards of Cyprus’ National Guard and Security Corps. The purposes of this programme are the combination of soldiers' entertainment exercises and sports practising, the continuation of the athletic soldiers' racing activity and the promotion of fair play behaviour. No available information is provided in regard to the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of the programme.
Physical education in the Central Prison: This programme is integrated within the physical education programme for the Security Bodies and focuses particularly on the social role played by sports. This programme has been set up and is further enhanced in the context of the Strategic Partnership signed between the CSO and the Prison Departments since 2016. Specialized sport training is provided through this programme to all the prisoners detained in all the Central Prison Wards. The programme addresses prisoners of all age groups, including young people. No available information is provided in regard to the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of the programme.
European Sports Week: The European Sports Week has been established by the European Commission as the largest annual European sporting campaign, with 35 European countries participating in it. This initiative aims to promote participation in sport and physical activity and raise awareness of the benefits of this participation. The Week is for everyone – particularly young people. The implementation of the week across Europe is largely decentralized and is being carried out in close cooperation with different individuals, public authorities and representatives of the sporting movement, civil society organizations and the private sector.
In Cyprus, this initiative is being implemented since 2015 by a number of stakeholders and CSO enacts as the coordinating authority providing extensive information and information delivery for the planning of the actions that are about to take place before and during the campaign. According to the 2019 Annual report of the Ministry of Education, during the 2019 European Sports Week, the total number of activities and sport events that took place all over Cyprus was 242, in which approximately 224 000 citizens participated for free. In addition, schools and students from all educational levels (both general and vocational education) participated in the different activities. The European Sports Week programme mainly focused on five thematic units: Education, Workplace, Outdoor Physical Activities, Sport Clubs and Gym Centres, Third Age Persons, Persons with Special Needs / Persons with Disabilities. As regards the types of activities, sport events, information days and lectures were organised. The CSO submitted a proposal with a budget reaching the overall amount of €227 338.89 (80% funded by the EU and 20% by the CSO) for 2019.
Within the scope of the Cypriot Education System, Physical Education (PE) is a compulsory subject that provides regular opportunities for physical activity among students inside the school setting. The Physical Education Curriculum (Αναλυτικό Πρόγραμμα Φυσικής Αγωγής) both for the Primary and Secondary Level Education is organized on the basis of the following six purposes, covering a spectrum of knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours intended to be acquired by the students:
1. Development of kinesthetic skills and exemplary performance of some of these.
2. Acquisition of knowledge from sports science (how and why) and their parallel implementation for effective participation in current and future physical activity conditions.
3. Knowledge and achievement of a fitness level of health.
4. Acquisition of positive experiences from physical activity and the development of self-expression and sociability.
5. Understanding and respecting the diversity of individuals and groups while working with everyone.
6. Demonstration of responsible athletic and social behaviour, as the result of participation in physical activities.
Focusing on the time allocated for Physical Education in schools at upper secondary level (Lyceum) of General Education, out of the total 35 periods (1period=45 minutes) per week comprising the courses’ timetable , the 1st grade Lyceum students attend P.E. for 1,5 periods/week (Ωρολόγιο Πρόγραμμα Α’ Λυκείου), the 2nd grade Lyceum students attend P.E. for 2,5 hours/week (Ωρολόγιο Πρόγραμμα Β’ Λυκείου), and the 3rd Grade Lyceum students attend P.E. for 2 hours/week (Ωρολόγιο Πρόγραμμα Γ’ Λυκείου). A note needs to be made that the differentiation of the taught time for P.E. for the 2nd Grade Lyceum timetable is due to the introduction of the First Aid Course which is offered for an extra period per week as part of the P.E. Curriculum. As for the Secondary Technical and Vocational Education and Training (STVET), out of the total 35 periods (1period=45 minutes) per week comprising the courses’ timetable, P.E. is compulsory and its taught time is 1 period/week for all three grades of STVET (Ωρολόγιο Πρόγραμμα Μέσης Τεχνικής και Επαγγελματικής Εκπαίδευσης).
The P.E. Curriculum, which was introduced since 2010, is also supported by the official teaching materials and textbooks offered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth (MOECSY). Furthermore, additional pedagogical tools, lesson plans, educational resources from seminars, conferences and lectures as well as other relevant announcements are shared through the official website of the “Physical Education Course – Secondary General Education” (Μάθημα Φυσικής Αγωγής Μέσης Γενικής Εκπαίδευσης) which is run by the MOECSY to support the course instruction of the P.E. teachers.
In addition to the above-mentioned, a large-scale initiative on the inclusion of physical activities outside the curriculum but within the school day is the “European School Sport Day” (Ευρωπαϊκή Ημέρα Σχολικού Αθλητισμού) which is organised each year under the European Sports Week. During this day, various sports activities are organised in schools of all educational levels of both secondary general and vocational education. As for the initiatives on extracurricular sports activities in schools, a new initiative is the Pancyprian school run “Running for my health” (Παγκύπριος Σχολικός «Δρόμος Υγείας 2020») which is organised by the Cyprus Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth for the first time in 2020 with the aim to raise awareness of students on health lifestyle through sports.
There are no official top-level guidelines to support collaboration and the formation of partnerships between schools, youth workers, health professionals and other sport organisations.