by Bob Morgan
I was not good at sport at school – I was no good at football or cricket and athletics was a nightmare because I could not jump over hurdles and I would do almost anything those damn hurdles. I went to a secondary school in North Yorkshire in the 1970s – they had changing rooms and a full time PE teacher but I did not enjoy much of it. Do all Secondary Schools have PE teachers these days? Of course there were those that did enjoy football, cricket, running so the School served those pupils well and I think it is right that Schools provide the opportunity for pupils to enjoy sports and – perhaps as importantly – to find out what they are good and not so good at.
As an adult I have run cross country – ran half marathons – tried rock climbing but most of all martial arts. Karate especially is one of those activities were you can gain something from it even if you are not especially quick or well-co-ordinated. You learn persistence and to keep on going. There is a Japanese saying – ‘fall down eight (times) – get up nine’: a good lesson which I am sure all sports cultures have as part of their ethos.
The Olympics has shown us (again) what it looks like when young people set themselves a goal and stick with it through all the pain barriers. I remember watching Shanaze Read crashing out on her BMX bike at the Beijing Olympics. What I remember most was not that she crashed but her reaction to what had happened – her toughness and resolve and determination shone through the disappointment. She picked herself up, in every sense and got on with it – getting up that ninth time! Is this a lesson for all of us; young and old(er)?
A bright young Olympic cyclist was being interviewed about her relentless training regime and when asked if she missed going out with friends she replied “why would I want to go out and get drunk when I get to go to the Olympics?” Should this be on a poster?
Not everyone can go to the Olympics but I am sure sports and physical games are good for people of any age. I was about to say for boys especially – they do seem to have the greater need for using up their energies – but I have more girls than boys doing karate and there do seem to be fewer sporting opportunities for girls.
These days I give karate and self-defence lessons for children – I go into a small primary school in a less than wealthy area and run a karate club and I do self-defence lessons for children in the summer holidays. I can keep the children busy for an hour with a mixture of games and karate and they keep coming back. The school seem to do a great job with their sports – they have a male PE teacher and have sports assemblies to give out prizes for the various sports activities. I mention the gender of the PE teacher because one of the quirks of going into primary schools as a male is getting called ‘Miss’. You quickly learn that it is not meant as an insult (I don’t think) but it is what they call most of their authority figures! The School is an orderly place, with well-behaved and friendly children – does their busy sporting calendar help with this?
I don’t go into many schools but one primary school I went into years ago didn’t have changing rooms so the girls and boys got changed for sports in the same classroom – I suspect that some children would find that difficult! Build more changing rooms!
The Olympics will provide our young people with many great examples of what can be achieved in sport, and life, if you stick with it and learn. Most children and young people will not be good enough for that level of competition but much really can be gained from just taking part. Those schools that don’t provide a range of sporting activities should – not just for future Olympic teams but to give young people an opportunity to express themselves physically and to use up their energies in a constructive way and to learn lessons for life in a different way. Not all of us can be good at sports but if enough different sports are on offer then most will find something that suits them.
It is not an original thought that it is the way children are led to sports that matters – giving them a chance to try and succeed, or not, in a supportive environment.
It is a cliché that taking part in sports builds character and self-confidence; but it does – even for those of us will never be in the first team!
This article was first published in Huffington Post.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.