The government assures us that the state of school sport in Britain is improving. Gordon Brown has called for pupils to spend more time on sport at school, with a view to making participation as much of a national characteristic as spectating. But as with the Olympics, the emphasis is very much on the health benefits of sport rather than developing a winning mentality. Competitive sport has been extinguished in many schools as it conflicts with our ‘all must have prizes’ culture, and many schools have no modern sporting facilities or playing fields. If it’s the taking part that counts, should we teach children that losing doesn’t matter? Is there then a conflict between developing sporting excellence and taking responsibility for getting our sedentary nation up and running?
Many schools do have successful sports departments and help develop excellent athletes. Inter and intra school competitions are alive and well in some areas, and some schools have facilities and all-weather pitches that previous generations could only dream of. In any case, many great sportsmen and women learned their art in the streets or wherever they could find space to play. Is the problem a lack of resources and pressure from government, or are we as a culture just unable or unwilling to motivate the young people to take part in competitive sport?
headteacher, Queens’ School (specialist sports college), Bushey, Hertfordshire
former Olympian; columnist, The Times; author, Bounce: how champions are made
director, Brighton Salon; tennis coach; author How to teach Young Children Tennis and In Defence of Competitive Sport.
sports coach working in sports development; sports writer
director, membership and events, Institute of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
|Tim Black editor, spiked Review of Books; journalist, spiked|
|Geoff Kidder director, membership and events, Institute of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters|
|recommended by spiked|