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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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“They Have Been Telling us the Answer for Years: ‘Please Sir, Can We Have a Game?’”

Posted Monday, 18 September 2017

The industry of sport coaching is a recently evolved one.  Before the 1970s, few teams had anything that could be described as a coach. Other than to transport them to the game. Indeed, many would have been offended by the implication of the concept.  Perhaps more shocking, cones had not been invented.  Any rudimentary team organisation was overseen by the captain. “Game Plans” and “Systems” were in their absolute infancy.

Fifty years have seen a huge cultural shift.  No self respecting team would be without a coach, whatever its performance level.  Player dependency is absolute: coach centricity is unquestioned.  At all levels of every game, the expectation of all is that the coach gives the instructions, and the players follow them.  This is not just before the game. It has become the industry norm that the coach maintains a constant commentary of advice and observation (to...

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Confusing the Purpose of Independent School Sport

Posted Tuesday, 12 September 2017

In most subjects, there is no disconnect between the educational and business purpose of an independent school.  Good exam results are good for business.  Full stop.  This might lead to accusations of teaching to the test, in “exam factories”, but parents and schools find rare and easy agreement here.  Good grades are the right outcome, and everyone aspires to the same thing. When exam results are published every summer, each school seeks a new way of measuring the to claim another record.  High grades correlate with high happiness - across the board.  Results mean reputation.  For the avoidance of doubt, widely published tables offer ready comparison of schools, and bursary of those in the upper divisions are clear of the business implication of this.

The same applies to elite sport.  Frequently produced tables allow clear identification of success.  The top teams attract the...

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

Posted Thursday, 31 August 2017

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...

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