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Book Review: 'Sevens Heaven' by Ben Ryan

Posted Friday, 08 June 2018

This is a book about Ben Ryan’s career as Head Coach of Fiji sevens, leading to the Gold Medal in the first ever Olympic Sevens in Rio in 2016.

But it is about much more than that.  It is the story of an impetuous decision to take on a job of rich potential, but endless short term frustration in a Third World environment.  This background is part of the book’s fascination. 

Implicit throughout is the contrast with Ryan’s previous role as Head Coach of England, the world’s most richly resourced union, though one mired in bureaucracy.  The free spiritedness of the Fijian players sits alongside the careful preparation of the English, but the chaotic nature of the organisation of the game in the Pacific brings frequent frustrations.  Penury is a constant theme, but overcoming it is a significant part of the story.  This theme reaches its ultimate poetic conclusion, as the...

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What's the best thing a school can have in Sport?

Posted Thursday, 31 May 2018

Anyone seeking the answer to this question by scouring school websites would be forgiven for coming up with the wrong answer to this question. 

The things that schools seem to be most proud of - to judge by the messages which they promote to the wider world - are the competitive successes of a small number of pupils, and their facilities.  Lavish and shiny facilities are the proxy for a vibrant sports programme, inferring that the presence of the former guarantees the latter.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Similarly, the fact that a small number of pupils can be successful in a national competition may be evidence of a school with excellent provision, or it may be a complete red herring.  Recruiting a coterie of hired assassins can have a considerable impact upon competitive success, whilst at the same time masking the real health of the programme.  They...

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Is Youth Cricket really dying?

Posted Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Earlier this week, Colin Graves, Head of the England and Wales Cricket Board, made the depressing observation that, “the younger generation, whether you like it or not, are just not attracted to Cricket”.  This is especially unfortunate from a man who is the custodian of the future of the game.  It is also untrue.

Many clubs are currently turning kids away from oversubscribed junior programmes and some schools can't provide enough games for all the boys and girls who want to play.  The game continues to have inherent appeal for a great many young children.  The idea that Cricket ever appealed to all is deluded: enthusiasm should not be confused with an inflexible compulsion to take part.

What has changed is the capacity to retain young people in the game.  There is probably a cocktail of factors which contribute to this, but one is certainly the experience of Cricket...

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Why Sport is the Opposite of Facebook

Posted Wednesday, 09 May 2018

Few people look at children playing with phones and screens and watch the scene with unalloyed pleasure.  Parents regulate and restrict screen time in a way that they never do with outdoor play.  There is a tacit acceptance that, however successful screens are as opiates of childhood, they are unwholesome and subjects of suspicion.  Because they are so fundamentally passive and introspective, neither of which are conditions which are applauded.

Then there is social media.  It’s all about me.  It is based on the narcissistic assumption that the world shares the obsession of the individual that what she is doing at any given moment is of interest to the rest of the world.  What's for lunch? What I am watching on TV?  Everything about social media centres around the individual, and the delusion that this might be important to others.

Sport, on the other hand, is the...

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The Simple Mathematics of Sports Coaching

Posted Thursday, 19 April 2018

Sports coaching has always had a dilemma.  Is its aim to achieve Stakhanovite efficiency and maximise chance of victory through the elimination of error? Winning ugly. Or is it about creativity and enterprise? The latter brings with it risk, and inevitable error, and sometimes these lead to defeat.  Winning beautifully? But risking losing carelessly. 

The truth is that efficiency and adventure are inextricably related.  High performance is a product of both, but to differing degrees.  Perhaps the formula might be:

Performance = Efficiency x Adventure

The significance is in the relationship.  These commodities do not add together. They multiply.  This means three things.  Firstly, there is the capacity to favour one above the other.  Secondly, the really high performances come from high levels of both.  But finally, if the level of either dimension is nil, then...

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Helping pupils deal with significant personal disappointments in their sport

Posted Friday, 16 March 2018

Article written by:  Mark Burley, Director of Sport, Canford School, Feb 2018

Within the sporting experience of adolescents there are certain events that occur which might well lead to additional stress and emotional upheaval. Teachers and coaches should be aware of occurrences such as significant injuries, de-selection and exits from teams that can, without appropriate support, potentially, lead to increased mental health concerns.

A player not gaining selection for regional, national or professional academy squads can be, in their eyes, seen as a very public failure. This can ultimately affect not just upon the very identity of the individual but also their academic performance too. If the adolescent has framed their own personal identity around their sporting progress then being dropped from a high profile squad can detrimentally affect...

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