What great coaches Thomas Sutcliffe had for English at school. But what disastrous coaches he had for PE and sport. One set of coaches helped him to develop the critical interpersonal skill of communication. The others abused him by abusing sport.
Sport is one of the few conduits that help people and cultures to rehearse and develop the "whats" and "hows" we need interdependently to live better lives. But we need the right coaches, teachers, mentors and facilitators to use them to our personal and collective advantage.
You see, sporting achievement is not about winning at all costs. Finishing first is one level of winning. Performing beyond your previous best is another; as is delivering honest endeavour through discipline and commitment in pursuing a goal; as is accepting a challenge to fight against the odds, and in the end knowing you gave everything.
The fact is, you cannot have total control of the result in any sense. But you do have control of your personal performance. I worked with Helen Rollason in her fight against cancer. She was given three months to live but enjoyed 24. I call that winning.
Sport is a great metaphor for applying this concept and for accepting the responsibilities and accountabilities that go with it. But that can only be part of the thought that prompted the lines: "And when the one Great Scorer comes/To write against your name/He writes not that you won or lost,/But how you played the game." Sport is an excellent means to rehearse the values we need to meet life's challenges.
Just as the minority of citizens who break the law don't oblige us to generalise that our culture is a law-breaking one, so the minority who operate against sport's values shouldn't lead us to conclude that sport should carry a moral health warning.
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