I’ll throw in my 2 cents and lay a huge portion of the blame on the school system. The school system (generally) rewards inactivity and provides no reward for activity. There is a solution.
Consider that selective school exams at end of year 4 and 6 are purely academic. In general, no consideration or acknowledgement for sport, dance, music, drama, or any other activity. Similarly for year 12 HSC (NSW at least). The students who haven’t dropped sport generally do so in year 11 or 12. They see it as a threat to their HSC performance and TER and might miss out on their course or university of choice. (Of course for elite athletes there are TER bonuses etc, but I’m looking at the kids in the middle). At the end of the HSC the top TER’s have a lot of kids who have sacrificed a lot, including their fitness to get there. Many have been in coaching colleges from year 4 all the way through. It leaves little time for sport dance music or any other activity. I worry that some of the kids outside our local coaching college look a bit stressed if not traumatised. No wonder some of them seem to have great marks and no communication skills. There are attempts to address this by other tests like the UMAT but it does not address the problem that sport has been dumped.
In NSW at least dropping sport for the HSC is thus almost inevitable. I view the HSC as being like an old car that has had too many accidents, too many repairs.
An alternative curriculum like the International Baccalaureate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IB_Diploma_Programme which is a designed system, is a much better alternative. Sport is compulsory, as is some community service, a language, theory of knowledge and recognition of culture etc. Overall it seems a very superior system. And certainly will produce a fitter healthier student, and hopefully one with a more rounded education. Dare I say a Renaissance person. The IB is available for senior school, middle school and junior school.
Some countries have adopted the IB for all levels of all their schools. It is growing rapidly. Queensland and Victoria have apparently looked at moving their government schools to IB.
I think that education is a nation’s greatest investment. Much of Australia’s current ongoing boom can be traced to the brain explosion of free then affordable universities introduced in 1972 by Whitlam. This got the best people into the hardest courses and we all benefit, even if it has gone of the rails a bit. I hope the 2020 conference looks firmly at providing the best education system for the nation’s future, and one in which sport and recreation has a firm role.