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If it's under W for Won, does anyone ask you how?


The purpose of sport is to try to win.  Right?  Therefore, if you win, all criteria have been fulfilled.  Right?  Well, not quite.  Some winning is better than others.

During the Cold War, Soviet bloc athletes won often.  Unsmiling and efficient.  The product of a regime that left nothing to chance.  But world beating effective.   Unlike Brazilian football teams, who won with a smile on their faces, playing breathtaking football incorporating dazzling skill.  If the purpose is to win, then neither is better than the other.   But we instinctively feel that one is superior.  That some hidden judging panel is awarding points for style. It makes us feel better, awakening a special pleasure centre. Welsh rugby and West Indian cricket teams of the Seventies.  Playing with swagger. Australia picked up the mantle in the Noughties, winning Test matches whilst scoring at more than four an over.  Where do you go from winning?  The indisputable superiority of winning with style.  Winning by attacking, winning by taking risks.  Playing the beautiful game. Bringing the crowd to its feet. Putting a smile on its face

If winning is Grade A, there is still an A*.  Something better than just winning.  But is it worth risking the first to get the second?  Sometimes not. New Zealand won the 2011 Rugby World Cup.  In the two years leading up to that day, they had played some of the most breathtaking rugby the planet had ever seen.  They had taken the game to a different level, revealing possibilities unimagined at international level.  But on the day, certainly in the last quarter, they played no rugby at all.  They took no risks. They only wanted to win. Maybe sometimes winning is the only thing, after all. If it's under W for Won, nobody asks you how. But the World Cup is once every four years.  In 2015, they did both.  They won playing the style of rugby that was captivating to watch.  Few doubter that this was a greater triumph - though, on the surface, the prize was the same.

In most school games, the probability of winning would be increased by reducing risk.  Welly the ball down to the opponents' end. Industrial Hockey.  Play for territory, letting the opposition make mistakes, maintaining pressure.  If there was an Under 13 World Cup, that's how teams would logically play to maximise chance of success.  Give it to the early developer, and tell him never to pass.  But is that how children should learn games?

Risk free play is the cancer of sport.  It seeks to find a utilitarian purpose that justifies self denial. It searches for a point that is the opposite of the pointlessness of sport. When avoiding error is more important than something creative, then sport has taken on the values of work.  That confusion may often be the case in elite sport, when "winning ugly" still achieves 4 points.  But in school sport, surely the value system is clear.  Skill, enterprise, moments of magic, a thing of beauty.  Something that lives forever in the memory. Timeless moments that bind people together in shared experience.  Transcending the mundane. "I was there" times.  Striving to create something beautiful. Magic is not ability dependent: it can happen at all levels and all ages.  No pupils ever suggest making the game dull and boring to increase the chance of winning.  It's is an adult construct, inappropriately applied.  It is a very good argument against a schools' World Cup.

Liberate the players. Tolerate mistakes.  Encourage creativity, accepting that it will increase the error count.  Strive not just to win, but to win beautiful.  Be prepared to risk losing to win with style, and make sure the players do the same. Ensure they understand the success criteria.  Celebrate magic moments. If this approach can't flourish in school sport, where will it triumph?

There is a difference between well judged risk taking and wanton stupidity.  But sometimes the line is fine. Teach the difference.  That's demanding coaching, and sometimes it will fail.  But there is no exam where the pass mark is 100%

Until you get a win bonus at Under 13, why would you do anything else?