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Parenting the Young Sports Star

Posted Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Size and speed are the enemies of pre-maturation sport.  They give the early developers an undue advantage, and they unbalance the game.  Anyone who has ever coached or refereed these games dreads the arrival of the man-child: the boy who scores five tries every game, or the girl who scores the same number of goals.  Other parents look on enviously, as their own children play a bit part (at best).  The show is dominated by the dramatic effectiveness of the early maturer - whose parents are kings of the touchline.

It is, however, the parents of the dominant player who have the most difficult task.  In the face of lavish praise for the child’s sporting “talent”, often accompanied by considerable attention from the pillaging parties of senior schools, it is easy to overlook the science.  Research clearly identifies that those born early in the school year have considerable...

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Parents in Sport: Do you want to Witness Joy or Victory?

Posted Friday, 06 October 2017

The great majority of parents like to see their offspring participate in sports or physical activity.  Rarer is the carer who sees no value in this.  The reasons why they approve of this type of involvement vary, though they are infrequently thought-out beyond the vague conviction that it’s somehow “good” for the kids.  What parents want their kids to get out of their experience of youth sport will determine the environment they choose to put them into, and the achievements that they wish to celebrate and encourage.

Research is quite clear what children enjoy in sport.  Having fun, being with friends, getting better at something, the excitement of competition: these are fairly consistent conclusions.  All these regularly appear above the desire to win trophies.  Whether the influential adults who determine the youth sports environment reflect these priorities is crucial.  It...

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Does Size Matter? Are big schools always at an advantage in sport?

Posted Monday, 02 October 2017

“They have got more to pick from!” is a regular refrain explaining the competitive success of large schools.  Certainly,  if sporting ability followed the curve of normal distribution - and no other factors were involved - then this would be true.  It can't be as simple as that though, or else there would be a linear relationship with pupil roll and trophy cabinet congestion.

Size creates challenges for schools in delivering sport.  It's not a magic formula, in which big is best.  A principal challenge is one of quality control.  It is more difficult to ensure that a large number of pupils has a positive experience than a small number.  Beyond the critical mass needed to maintain a high performance programme, larger pupil populations make demands on resources that can stretch the capacity to deliver quality.

The simple mathematics are not irrelevant, but they are far...

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Should you “Give Up” Time for School Sport ?

Posted Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Teachers are often thanked (maybe not often enough), for their role in encouraging school sport, and undertaking the supervisory roles that make it possible.  Such thanks often acknowledge the “giving up” of time to enable such games to occur.  As a sign of the times, pupils are now sometimes thanked for “giving up” their time to play for the school.  The decline of Cricket is often linked with perceived pupil reluctance to “give up” time to the game.

The language is interesting.  All of this implies a sacrifice.  That something more attractive has been denied in order to enable the school sport occasion to take place.  It suggests that, given a choice, the sport wouldn't happen.  More attractive choices would be made.

If this is the foundation of sport, then its days are numbered.  Eventually the appeal of the contrasting activity will grow to the point that it cannot...

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BOOK REVIEW - The Greatest:The Quest for Sporting Perfection by Matthew Syed

Posted Tuesday, 19 September 2017

This book is an easy-to-read collection of articles, all of which have previously been published in “The Times” over the previous ten or so years.  Their loose connection is that they summarise a range of factors which characterise high performance in various sports. 

The articles are collected into five categories, loosely connected by a variety of themes.  Some of the links are tenuous and forced, though all the individual pieces are well written and interesting. The idea that they create a concerted whole is a little far-fetched.

The first section, “Building a Champion” identifies an eclectic combination of factors which contribute to sporting progress, including parenting, practice and performance programmes. Another section considers the mental side of sport, a further one on high achievement and a fourth on the overlap between sport and politics, including an...

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Has School Sport Become too Extreme?

Posted Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The last twenty years has seen an astronomical increase in the standard of the top level of school sport in UK.  The increased allocation of resources – time, facilities, specialist coaching, levels of competition – has developed out of all recognition.  Top level performance, and victory in an ever increasing number of high profile competitions has become more important.  The result is a fierce contest for the services of the best players and the emergence of increasingly demanding programmes of preparation. 

This process – the ‘academisation” of school sport – has unquestionably raised the standard of the best performers and the leading teams.  An unintended consequence, however, is a subtle shift in the purpose of sport in secondary education.  Many schools are conducting themselves as if their principal function is to produce a supply of players for professional sport....

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