Whether organized sports should be played for physical well-being, recreation, character building and/or competition… or maybe even for financial rewards and the accumulation of victories has been a long-standing debate in England since the middle of the nineteenth century. There is a stigma associated with anything that even gives a hint of professionalism…
William Tilden (1893-1953)
Mr. Bill Tilden, a great American tennis-player of the first part of the 20th century once debated what was wrong with English Tennis. “Nothing can save English Tennis!” he said, ”The English, it appears, have a weird and unnatural way of regarding tennis as a mere game, or a thing to be enjoyed…” Tilden called for fundamental reforms in the thinking of organized tennis in England : ”The only way to save English Tennis is to prevent it from being English.”
Tennis great Boris Becker
Curiously, almost three-quarters of a century later, English tennis continues to find itself reluctant to change, or even to re-think or challenge its long-standing attitude on this question. Boris Becker wrote last week on the state of tennis in England: “The country has the finest tennis tournament in the world and yet does not have one player good enough to play…There can be no excuse. Somebody must be doing something horribly wrong.”Pat Cash echoed this: “It should be a national embarrassment. Imagine Melbourne Park with no Aussies or Roland Garros with no French. Heads would roll in the national federation.”Ofcourse, tennis is just the tip of the iceberg in English sports. In general all sports suffer , some more equally than others. Many argue that the mind-set of the English people must change , and that the best place to start with reform is in the education system. For years the English education system has had a pro-active policy of discouraging competitive games/sports, which had been unfairly criticized for being ‘elitist’. In their place politically correct sporting activities –without winners and losers– have been promoted.In one directive to schools during the last Labour government, schools were encouraged to replace competitive races with ‘problem-solving’ exercises for their sports days. But things appear to be shifting in England. With the Olympic Games just around the corner and a younger and more dynamic conservative government having just been elected, the older mind-set is about to become a thing of the past. The government wants to put competitive games/sports back into schools! Ministers hope the initiative will finally end a culture that has seen schools refuse to pit youngsters directly against each other.
Return of REAL school sports:
Tories to revive ‘competitive’ games in bid to turn nation back into champions
By Laura Clark
26th June 2010
Competitive games are to be revived in schools in a bid to turn Britain back into a nation of sporting champions. As the country holds its breath over the World Cup and Wimbledon, ministers want their new ‘School Olympics’ programme to end the culture of ‘prizes for all’.
The sports championships are intended to give every child experience of hard-fought competition. They will reverse a decline in competitive sport brought about by Left-wing councils that scorned it as ‘elitist’ and insisted on politically correct activities with no winners or losers.
The competitions will involve a wide range of sports including football, rugby, netball, golf, cricket, tennis, athletics, judo, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, cycling and volleyball.
Schools will be able to nominate any sport in any age group as long as they can find opponents. Details of the championships will be unveiled on Monday, hard on the heels of a weekend of sporting drama with England playing old rivals Germany in the World Cup tomorrow and Andy Murray today vying for a spot in Wimbledon’s fourth round.
A sporting chance: Details of the Conservative plans to produce a nation of sporting champions will be unveiled as Wayne Rooney fights to win the World Cup
As they launch the initiative, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (left) and Education Secretary Michael Gove (right) will say it is intended to ensure the 2012 London Olympics leave a lasting sporting legacy.
The first championship will take place in the run-up to the 2012 Games with further competitions planned beyond that. Paralympic-style events will be staged in parallel for youngsters with disabilities.
Mr Hunt said: ‘I want to give a real boost to competitive sport in schools using the power of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to encourage young people – whatever age or ability – to take part in this new competition. Sport – whether you win or lose – teaches young people great lessons for life. It encourages teamwork, dedication and striving to be the best that you can be.’
Steve Grainger, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: ‘Competition has been happening on an ad hoc school to school basis since the demise of district-level sport. It was down to schools to sort something out with another school which is maybe a utopian view of how it might happen.’
‘We have built up a network of 450 school sport partnerships with every school locked in so we now have a really solid base from which to develop competitive sport up to 2012 and lever off the back of 2012 to enable every kid in the country to have a suitable competitive experience in a whole range of sports.’
Schools will compete against each other in district leagues from 2011 with winning athletes and teams qualifying for up to 60 county finals. The most talented budding sports stars will then be selected for national finals – although this currently covers England only.
Lottery funding of up to £10million a year, distributed by Sport England, will be used to create a new sports league structure for primary and secondary schools, culminating in the 2012 finals.
But ministers also hope the championships will reinvigorate PE lessons, within-school tournaments and local leagues. Schools will be expected to host in-house Olympic-style sports days so that children of all abilities have the opportunity to compete and join teams.
The coalition government plans to publish information about schools’ sporting facilities and the amount of sport and competitive sport they provide for pupils. There would also be school sports league tables, so parents can track the success of their children’s schools’ sports results.
Mr Gove said: ‘We need to revive competitive sport in our schools. Fewer than a third of school pupils take part in regular competitive sport within schools, and fewer than one in five take part in regular competition between schools. ‘The School Olympics give us a chance to change that for good.’
Related articles on this theme can be found at the following links:
LONDON MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON IS A BIG PROPONENT ON BRINGING BACK COMPETITIVE GAMES TO THE SCHOOLS. TODAY HIS POPULAR BLOG CARRIED AN ARTICLE (http://www.boris-johnson.com/) THAT HAS BEEN REPUBLISHED IN EVERY MAJOR NEWS PAPER IN ENGLAND
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
(born 19 June 1964) is an English politician and journalist. The current Mayor of London, he previously served as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Henley and as editor of The Spectator magazine (WIKI)
”Now, allow me to tell you why England came a cropper. Our World Cup thrashing can be traced to the ban on competitive school sports” — Boris Johnson.
Twenty million England football fans unpeeled themselves from the sofa and picked up the shattered remnants of the beer bottle they hurled at the wall in the 66th minute – when Mueller scored Germany’s third goal. With a heavy heart and a distended liver we all went on to the patio or the garden or whatever open space was available and stared with despairing eyes at the beautiful blue sky of one of the most perfect summer afternoons this country has ever seen. And together, like coyotes, we whimpered a single pathetic question in the general direction of the Almighty. Why?
Why does it always end like this? Why is it that our national team has once again vindicated the aphorism of Gary Lineker, that football is a game in which 22 men run around for 90 minutes – and then the Germans win?
Why do we once again have to endure the post-mortems of the football sage Alan Hansen? It is always easy to distinguish between the great Mr Hansen and a ray of sunshine, but yesterday he certainly let England have it in the neck. “They were hopeless from start to finish,” he pronounced. “I don’t think I have ever seen a more inept performance.”
“It was a shambles,” said someone else, possibly Alan Shearer, and no one disagreed. In other papers less restrained than this one, there will today be a ritual orgy of national self-loathing, in which poor Fabio Capello and everyone associated with the England World Cup campaign will be fire-hosed with liquid ordure delivered with all the pent-up and primeval fury of an exploding undersea oil leak. Many commonsensical people will avert their eyes from this spectacle. They will find it vulgar and savage. They will try to argue that it is only a game, and that we should not mind losing to the Germans.
I am afraid they are wrong, or at least over-optimistic about our national temperament. For better or worse, this World Cup is international voodoo, and these 11 men stand for us all. They are anthropologically freighted with the weight of our expectations. So much of our national confidence, so much of our national pride, depends on the exact oscillation set up by the collision between Stephen Gerrard’s instep and a Jabulani ball.
All the evidence is that if England had won, the country’s glands would have collectively emitted great joyous jets of serotonin. Sterling would have soared. The Footsie would have leapt like a salmon in the mating season. Britain would have accelerated its climb out of recession; and instead we have the match you saw.
We managed to pull off the biggest ever defeat in the World Cup finals. We weren’t robbed. We were thrashed. As England return, it is obviously important that someone should say something in defence – or at least in explanation – of their performance. And since I am one of the few Telegraph columnists actually to have played for England against Germany (at the Madejski stadium in 2006) and can therefore claim to understand the huge pressures of this particular derby, I feel that function falls to me.
Some people will, of course, follow Fabio Capello in drawing attention to Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal. They will say it was a disgrace, and they will be right, but I am afraid their point would have more force if we had lost 2-1. You can’t blame the absence of an electronic touch-judge when the score is 4-1.
The problem wasn’t the lack of an electronic gizmo; the problem lay with the men on the pitch. Some will say it was all to do with Wayne Rooney and his curious listlessness, as though he was literally bowed by the burden of national hopes. Some will say it was all to do with the dressing-room mutiny allegedly led by John Terry, and others that it was bonkers to play Emile Heskey in the dying few minutes, and that we should have brought on Crouch.
More thoughtful analysts may say that actually those Germans weren’t half bad, with an array of Polish-German and Turkish-German talent that should serve as an impressive advertisement for managed immigration from eastern Europe.
But I think it goes deeper than that. To understand why we lost so badly, we need to look at the background field of causation. There is a reason why Germany have succeeded in getting through to the quarter-finals since 1938 and why England have so often failed.
I had an insight, an omen, yesterday morning. I got up early to play tennis, at a municipal court. It is a lovely place, an oasis of green, in a densely populated area not far from London; and since I had failed to book I fully expected to be kicked off by 8am. Well, by 9am the courts were still deserted and we played blissfully on. It wasn’t until almost 10am – on one of the most glorious days of the year, a day when the whole of nature seems to shout that it’s time for tennis – that we were joined on the courts. A nice middle-aged couple turned up and began patting it to each other, and I thought, by heaven, what is wrong with us? Where is the get-up-and-go of our kids?
If this was Germany, they would have been out bagging the courts since dawn! Somewhere along the line the nation that invented or codified virtually every sport seems to have lost its lust for competitive games. I don’t want to exaggerate this. We did amazingly at the 2008 Olympics, and we have recently beaten Australia at rugby. But in our game, the world game, we should be doing so much better.
I am sure the problem is partly to do with all those foreign players in the Premiership, but it’s more fundamental than that. We are still paying the price of an educational establishment that developed an aversion to competitive games and an obsession with bureaucracy and elf and safety that made it hard for the voluntary sector to fill the gap.
But let’s look on the bright side. We have a new government that should be able to change that, and at least it didn’t go to penalties.