Belarusian children’s sporting schools see influx of trainees
The slogan ‘To Be Faster, Higher, Stronger’ was born in Soviet times, when sporting schools for children and teenagers were set up in cities and villages. A wide network of such centres for active physical training remains in Belarus — with better facilities than ever before. Ice rinks countrywide allow youngsters to try figure skating and hockey alongside traditional activities.
Breaking stereotypes. Affordability is one of the advantages of Belarusian sports for children. Parents can take their children free of charge, since everything is financed by the state budget. If, after several years of training, a child shows no great progress, they can continue by paying a small fee. Even families on moderate incomes can afford to pay.
Only recently have fee-paying groups been launched at sporting schools and centres, enrolling 3 and 4 year olds. They are designed to promote a healthy lifestyle, while laying the foundations for future sporting prowess. Such services are rising in popularity, with many schools intentionally focusing on this age, compiling special programmes and exercise regimes.
In recent years, specialists have noted growing interest in sports, which may be the result of the public campaign to encourage good health (launched in the country several years ago). At present, parents believe it to be their duty to train their child in the basics of ‘healthy behaviour’ via sports. About 70,000 children and teenagers in the Gomel region are now regularly taking part in sporting activities, keeping fit under the guidance of PT instructors and coaches.
“The state philosophy of promoting a healthy lifestyle — cultivated in Belarus for the past few years — has already yielded fruit,” assert staff at Frantsisk Skorina State University’s Physical Culture and Sport Department in Gomel. “The results have been twofold for the Gomel region. We’ve at last managed to break the post-Chernobyl stereotype. Following the 1986 accident, PT was suspended from the local school curriculum and access to sports was restricted, since children’s health was thought too fragile to place additional burdens upon them. We’ve managed to prove the reverse via scientific research. Physical activity strengthens the body and enhances immunity.”
Young but mature. This year has set a record regarding demand for sporting schools’ services in the Gomel region. “We completed basic enrolment in early September, while we usually have places until mid-October. The new season has two distinctive features — a huge influx of parents with small children and great interest in sports like gymnastics, figure skating and football,” Gomel’s Mayoral Office tells us. Asking which sports are less popular, officials told me, “We can’t name any. Boxing, weightlifting and chess also remain popular. We have no need to persuade anyone. Usually, interest in sport rises drastically when our leading sportsmen win international competitions.”
Gomel’s chess and draughts school №3 hosts regular games evenings, with boys and girls are deep in thought over their boards. Serezha Kosach, 5, is a special trainee who began before he was three years old.
“The Lady!” I’m trying to chat while moving my chess piece. Serezha calmly corrects me, “I’m sorry. It’s not the Lady but the Queen.” He then turns to his father saying, “Dad, I need to discuss a chess mistake with you.” He is so young, yet already knows grandmaster methods and uses them to defeat his more experienced rivals at tournaments. Serezha has won several city events — playing against children 2-3 years older. There are no children’s grades but he holds the adult’s fourth grade — the first in Gomel to reach it at his tender age. He makes notes of the matches he plays against older sportsmen, learning from his errors, and already reads, writes and solves mathematical problems well.
Neither his parents nor coach worry about whether he’ll become a chess star; Serezha loves chess and gains confidence with each match while learning from his losses. Emotional maturity is the result — an out-come seen in all sports.
Young sportsmen receive major training. The Junior Weightlifting World Championship has caused a stir among boys in the Gomel region’s Lelchitsy district. It is an interesting story, though not exceptional.
This summer, Kazimir Fitsner, 19, brought home gold from Romania in the junior double-event. The district centre of Lelchitsy greeted him, crying, “Hurray!” Kazimir chatted to fans with pleasure, saying, “I’m very happy. This victory is dedicated to my coaches, who noticed me and trained me from year seven at school. This win is dedicated to Lelchitsy, where I was born and grew up. This victory is a result of my faith.”
He studied at Buinovichi’s village school. His parents were not well off but Kazimir’s PT teacher realised his potential and called weightlifting coach Nikolay Voronovich to visit Lelchitsy. After meeting Voronovich, the boy moved to a specialised boarding school for Olympic training, cared for by its coaches.
The school has a long-lasting tradition that the more complicated life a boy has, the more attention he receives. Coaches see it as their mission to search for sporting protйgйs, training them to gain a strong inner core. The school’s gym is decorated with sporting mottos such as ‘believe in yourself and your victory’, ‘don’t envy and don’t search for your failures in others’ and ‘always respect your rival’. During our phone interview, Kazimir recollects them.
“He was, initially, an ordinary teenager,” Honoured Coach of Belarus Nikolay Voronovich tells us. “Later, he acquired strength, techniques and will. He would outline his goal and consciously claim it. Kazimir has no equal in Belarus for physical potential. “Can he bend horseshoes?” I ask, wanting to ascertain his strength. “No, but he sets records,” smiles the coach. “His recent result at the European Cadet Championship has not yet been surpassed by anyone.”
Despite his young age, the Belarusian sportsman already boasts a collection of medals from international tournaments. This was his first world gold but he has another dream now — to conquer the world of adult weightlifting. Speaking about his plans for the forthcoming Olympics, he notes, “I know only one thing — training is needed. Nothing is then impossible.”
By Violetta Dralyuk
Records of young Kazimir
[b]Belarusian children’s sporting schools see influx of trainees [/b]The slogan ‘To Be Faster, Higher, Stronger’ was born in Soviet times, when sporting schools for children and teenagers were set up in cities and villages. A wide network of such centres for active physical training remains in Belarus — with better facilities than ever before. Ice rinks countrywide allow youngsters to try figure skating and hockey alongside traditional activities.