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European School Sport Day 2023 shifts focus from competition to the joy of being active

By Anita Kiraly, ISCA

Can we make a shift in the competitiveness of school sport towards finding the joy in sport and physical activity (PA) instead? Can we just #BeActive for the sake of happiness? This year’s European School Sport Day (ESSD) in centred around exploring the ways of developing and organising more enjoyable, more exciting PA programmes to help children develop positive emotional attitudes towards being physically active.

This year we will be celebrating the 9th edition of ESSD since its debut on the European stage in 2015. According to tradition, and paying tribute to its predecessor, the Hungarian School Sport Day, it will be held on the last Friday of September, on 29 September 2023. 

ESSD has always aimed to be a beacon for children and adolescents showing a clear path on their lifelong journey towards leading a healthy lifestyle. Through its annual focus topics, ESSD has touched upon themes such as physical health, wellbeing, volunteering, nutrition, self-esteem and mental health, as well as active space design, green, eco-friendly and sustainable sporting events, with key messages being delivered to over 2 million children and adolescents in schools in over 40 countries worldwide each year. 

Over the past – almost one – decade of working together with our founding partners and National Coordinators, we have inspired not only schools and teachers, but also children and local community members to think outside of the box and find creative ways to engage in PA. 

In 2023, it is no different. The strong, actively engaged and ever-growing network of like-minded practitioners and organisations provide the core strength of ESSD. Our partners and National Coordinators exchange and share good practices, expertise and strategies to find and strengthen synergies between parallel initiatives to amplify the overarching message about the importance of PA, health, social and environmental responsibility. 

The focus topic of #ESSD2023 – Joy in Sport and Physical Activity not only resonates well with the literature, where positive associations have been found between PA and happiness in adolescents, but also creates synergies with EU policies on education and sport in a holistic way, interlinking the policy areas defined in its Guidelines on sport, health, and education. 

In our 21st century world, it is natural for children to use electronic- devices for both learning and recreation. In addition, formal initiatives to increase their PA, such as physical education classes, are often seen as a compulsory ‘duty’ for the average student. Our task is therefore to offer an alternative that shows the joy of movement and thereby motivates children to take a more relaxed and fun approach to an active lifestyle and, as a result, to develop positive behavioural patterns that fulfil the ultimate goal of ESSD: to get more children on the MOVE.

Traditionally, school sport activities have focused on competition, which favours children with the most skills or sporting talent. However, by providing a fun-factor-oriented environment, we can include those who would have been excluded otherwise, and in that way provide positive experiences and joy through movement. This exciting, challenging and fun way of offering various movement forms the focus of ESSD’s 2023 edition.

A new, focus-topic themed toolkit is coming soon, compiling ready-to-use methods, ideas, best practices and programmes that even the children can use by themselves.
Registration is now open for schools to take part – click HERE to register. 

Photo: European School Sport Day in Portugal, 2022

Posted on 15/02/2023 by Anita Kiraly, ISCA


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