Chinese parents spend big on kids' sports
Zhang Yimeng, a 9-year-old pupil, has been fencing for over three years in a club in Jinan, east China's Shandong Province.
The training course is not cheap. Zhang's parents have paid 8,800 yuan (about 1,265 US dollars) annually four times so far. That does not include expenses for travel, accommodation and uniforms when he participates in competitions away from home city.
"We are glad that Yimeng has become more independent and confident after fencing for nearly four years. All is worth it," said his father Zhang Kan, adding that he will let his baby daughter learn to fence too after she turns five.
Zhang Yimeng's story mirrors the boom in China's sports training industry.
The COVID-19 epidemic has led to a broader awareness of the importance of sports exercises. Therefore, more and more Chinese parents have chosen various sports courses for their kids during this summer vacation.
12-year-old Yang Yu said she enrolled in swimming, diving and ski courses this summer compared with only swimming last summer.
"Exercising with friends is more effective than staying at home. More importantly, exercise makes me gain less weight," Yang told Xinhua after she finished ski training on a ski simulator.
The cost of sports courses ranges from 1,000 yuan to over 10,000 yuan.
Take Yang Yu's ski lessons, for example, a three-day summer camp costs 1,380 yuan, while a five-day camp costs 1,680 yuan. The swimming course also has different pricing, such as 1,500 yuan for 12 classes in a 5-person program, and 1,800 yuan for 10 classes in a one-on-one lesson. Therefore, Yang's parents spend at least 5,000 yuan on her physical education during this summer vacation.
Fencing, sailing and equitation courses are more expensive compared with ball games and swimming. On the website of "Happy Summer Camp," there is a sports camp for sailing, golf and equitation. A sailing summer camp costs from 4,980 yuan to 17,760 yuan.
Wang Zongping, a professor with Nanjing University of Science and Technology, noted that many young parents have no problem tutoring their children in academic studies, but fall short in guiding their kids in terms of physical education. Meanwhile, parents want their kids to exercise safely and professionally, so they are willing to spend big on physical education.
According to a survey released by the People's Bank of China in early July, when asked about the items that Chinese citizens plan to spend more in the coming three months, education tops the list (29.8%) followed by medical care (28.3%).
As fewer schoolchildren have travel plans this summer vacation due to the epidemic, students who enroll in sports courses or exercise independently rise by about 20 percent, according to another survey.
"Statistics showed that swimming is still the most popular sport as it can make your heart and lungs strong, followed by ball games and taekwondo," said Wang Zongping.
Wang Yuelin, 10, took a one-on-one course in backstroke after he mastered breaststroke, and he also had a table tennis course this summer.
"Swimming is a life skill and keeps me fit, so I decided to learn more strokes," said Wang Yuelin.
Wang's coach Zhang Jingjing has been in the swimming training business for nearly ten years. She said about 170 kids have already enrolled in her club this summer, a considerable increase from last year.
"There is a limit on the number of swimmers in a pool because of the new protocols to contain the virus. The one-on-one courses will only be available after mid-August," said Zhang.
According to the Annual Report on Chinese Children's Development (2019), 58% of children participate in extra-curricular courses during summer vacation. Sports courses are third in the most participation rankings. The top two are tutoring in math and tutoring in art studies like painting or dancing.
Xin Tingzhong, a professional taekwondo and Kungfu coach for 18 years in Jinan, predicts that sports training will further flourish in the post-coronavirus era.
"Many parents nowadays value their kids' all-round development, especially their character-building through sport. They will spend more on sports," Xin explained.
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