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The Endless Industry of Talent Development in Youth Sport

Posted Friday, 04 October 2019

The professionalisation of sport is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Although some sports have paid players for a long time, that was exactly what they did.  They paid them to play.  Preparation to perform was either absent or perfunctory.  Sports science hadn’t been invented. 

The drive for high performance is ultimately driven by the pecuniary benefits of success for both teams and individuals.  Vast infusions of money from television, national lottery and other sources have rewarded the best teams and players disproportionately.  Talent has been commoditised.  And its value therefore increased.

Heavily resourced clubs and programmes depend on a constant supply of new talent.  Competition to identify, attract and develop this is a recently emerged industry, especially in sports such as Rugby, Netball and Hockey.  The net is cast wide.  Games which previously condemned...

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When is it ok to Shout at the Referee?

Posted Friday, 27 September 2019

The new term is well underway.  The initial excitement has settled into a regular operation.  School teams have been selected, and have got a few games under their belt.  For some kids, the elation of initial selection has subsided into the smug complacency of a regular team place; others hang around the margins and hope for a chance of half a game as a substitute.  Still more have suffered the wounding humiliation of rejection and drifted off into other activities. 

The regular programme of matches ticks over week by week.  The predictable rhythm of practices, checking on fitness and availability, team sheets, match logistics and fixture day has been established.  In many schools, match day is the high point of the week.  An eagerly anticipated peak of the sports programme, relished by children and parents.  These are the games that fuel the proud boasts in Monday’s...

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Where is the Fun in School Sport?

Posted Thursday, 07 March 2019

One of the few things on which most people are agreed is that school sport should be fun.  Whilst that might not always be obvious from the ways in which it is delivered – or the response of pupils to its demands – it is one of the few universal justifications for the inordinate expenditure of time, effort and resources that school games demand.

This should, therefore, make designing the programme relatively straightforward.   By providing activities that are fun, widely agreed aims are readily met.  Sadly, it’s not as simple as that.  And the reason is that fun has a wide variety of faces; it is different things to different people.  This means that ensuring fun requires a multi faceted sports provision.

So, where might the fun be?  Most children, when asked to reflect on what they enjoyed most about playing in school teams, are united that the principal fun was...

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The Forgotten Majority in School Sport

Posted Wednesday, 27 February 2019

All schools have kids who love games.  The size of the group may vary, to reflect the culture of the environment.  It may also be subject to attrition at different rates as pupils get older.  But there will always be a sizeable group of boys and girls who love being active and eagerly exploit all the opportunities that are put in front of them.  Schools have more than 100 years experience of providing for the able enthusiasts, and are comfortable that they know how to do this well.  Most schools reserve the best of their provision for this population.

Equally, all schools have pupils who have no interest whatever in outdoor games, and find the pursuit of balls of all sizes to be pointless.  The combination of disinterest and lack of effort ensures that progress is minimal.  This constituency is often allowed to detach from team games at an early stage of their school career -...

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The Inverted Economics of Independent School Sport

Posted Thursday, 06 December 2018

Provision for high performance in school sport has never been more extensive, or of higher quality.  There are more staff, more specialist coaches, conditioners, analysts and physiotherapists than ever before.  This has led to an increase in training times, individual programmes, one to one sessions and visits from a glittering array of inspirational speakers.  It is a truly premium product.

All of this comes at a cost.  Schools have never spent more on the pursuit of sporting victories – nor on the recruitment of able and promising performers.  The oxymoronic concept of a Sports Scholarship has become the currency of choice for many schools, seeking the perceived advantages of winning school matches.

The irony of this is that the pupils who pay the least in school fees often get a disproportionately good experience when compared to the full fee payer.  Whilst a school’...

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