Friday, 10 August 2012

Why All Can Still Have Medals.


The Olympic Games are drawing slowly but surely to an end and politicians of all parties are beginning to move in to grab the legacy agenda. Is it up to teachers to work harder providing extra-curricular support? Is it time to revamp the School Sports Partnerships? Should Schools look to provide two hours of 'competitive' sport a week or a day? Should all teachers, regardless of their subject skills, be expected to contribute to Schools sport?

At the heart of all of the debate is yet another attack on non-competitive sport - the so called 'all must have prizes' syndrome, so brilliantly parodied by Lewis Carroll through the Caucus race in Alice in Wonderland, and an implicit attack on activities that promote collaboration and 'not for profit' involvement. Is there a threat that the push to dedicate more time and resources to sport might push to one side the time offered to other non-academic activities - Drama, Dance, Art, Music?

The consensus seems to be that unless some form of hierarchy or grading can take place then some how the activity is diminished. Competition, we're told, raises standards and enjoyment for all. Learning to be a good loser is all part of the deal and 'if you can't win make sure the person who does breaks the world record.'

Of course all this is positive and true, but I do worry that the focus on 'competitive' hides the notion that all victory is in some way a collaboration between those who participate. The best of the Olympics is actually the grand collaboration that brings nations together, agrees rules, accepts decisions and shares emotions.

There is of course a grand conformity about all this which part of me baulks against, but in as much as the Olympics, on this level, is inclusive and values a diversity of talents I think it can provide an incredibly inspiring legacy for community development. It's worth noting that, athletics aside, the sports in which we've won gold medals are not part of a traditional PE curriculum and the achievements of our sportsmen and women seem to have grown from them picking up or inheriting a sport as a hobby, joining a club and realising some success in it. Parents, it's clear, have a huge hand in turning enthusiastic children into world class athletes.




I was interested to hear yesterday that everybody who takes part in the Olympics receives a certificate that unambiguously names them as an Olympian - of course it lacks the prestige of the Gold Medal. But in essence it seems identical to the Primary School Sports day where every child is rewarded for their own achievement or idiosyncrasy.
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