Jack Winter argues that Britain should stop celebrating mediocrity and press for success!
I remember when in year six at my tiny primary school, the school banned running on the playground as it was deemed too dangerous. No seriously, this actually happened. P.E lessons as you can imagine were diabolical, rather than encouraging sport it felt as if the school was doing the opposite. My experience of sport at secondary school barely improved.
P.E was a strange lesson don’t you think? I went to a state school where it was the only lesson where teachers would openly show favouritism and join in with the piss-taking, to be honest at some points it felt as though all social normality disappeared and we had all arrived in some sort of scene from The Lord of the Flies. Half the class buggered off for a fag in the bushes and another chunk went and sat under a tree whilst a minority put in some sort of effort. Most of our equipment had been knocking about since the 1970s (as had most of the teaching methods, minus perhaps the pants and socks punishment if you forgot your kit). In retrospect I just don’t think that the students cared enough, because they didn’t care they didn’t try and so the teachers focused on the few who tried and achieved. Everyone else consigned themselves to the sporting scrapheap.
So why didn’t anyone care? Why didn’t anyone aspire to be the best? I think it starts at home and undoubtedly goes deeper than that to the roots of British culture, an effect that trickles down through the generations to the groups of chilly teenagers on soggy fields wishing they were doing something else. As a nation we love sport, it is an intrinsic element of our culture and I don’t think anyone can deny that. So why is it that we fall short of the mark on an international level? Why is it that countries like the USA, Australia, France and China consistently achieve on a level we can barely touch?
There is obviously a plethora of contributing factors to why Britain chokes where others push on to glory, but I think that our culture’s attitude to sport is significantly culpable. We see it as a hobby, a pastime, something to do when we’re not working. A very British cynicism instils a negativity that makes young people doubt their ability to become world class at the sport they love. Other nations see it as a serious undertaking where it is important not only to take part but to win, regardless of the level at which you compete.
The government consistently discuss changes in academic subjects and the way that young people are assessed, but barely a thought is spared for an overhaul in the way sport is taught from year one to year eleven. This shows how low sport is on the national priority list. Britain has no less sporting ability than any other nation; we just lack the coaching and encouragement at the lowest of levels to reach our national sporting potential.
Unfortunately we may have to resign our history of sporting achievement to folklore should we fail to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to young people in sport. The way P.E is taught in schools needs to be completely re-thought, it needs to build on the inspiration of this Olympics. These games have inspired me a little too late but let’s hope our society uses the London 2012 games as the springboard it needs to start helping young people to take competing in sport seriously, to get hungry for success and to pave our future with Olympic gold.