• Minnie Eve
  • 21 August 2012

There’s no ‘I’ in team (but there is in winner)

Why has it taken the Olympics to remember that the competitive nature of sport is beneficial to our youth?  It’s too late for me to realise my lifelong dream (an extraordinarily fanciful one) of representing my country in a sporting capacity but I’d like to think that the channels exist for kids today and also that as adults we will have developed a healthy level of competition within us that we can emancipate in this modern life.

As the Government’s advisor on school sports, Dame Kelly Holmes has recently said she supported the compulsory two hours of PE in schools, a target introduced by Labour, but scrapped by David Cameron.  Since Great Britain’s success at the London Olympics, the revised curriculum will see competitive team sports made compulsory for primary school children.

Two hours a week?  I personally reside firmly in the two hours a day camp.  However, I understand that not everyone loves physical activity as much as I do.  At school, as a competitive, fairly athletic, (sporting) all-rounder, I always felt sympathetic to my less sporting cohorts.  I never had to suffer being picked last for teams and I never wanted a note to excuse me from gym.  My consideration never stopped me wanting to win though.  After my own mother refrained from attending my sports days, I felt a little guilty – she was embarrassed that I won every race.  The guilt was short-lived though; sport was the only thing I ever trusted my ability in.  I certainly didn’t see my peers indulge me in their sorrow when they all beat me in academic subjects, so why should I feel bad about their lack of physical prowess?

Perhaps what is needed is less focus on competing against everyone else but embracing the inherent nature of competition, in challenging yourself and wanting to do better.  We certainly shouldn’t want to put kids off exercise and sport; instead we should be taking every opportunity to encourage them to take part, improve their fitness and set them up for a healthy lifestyle, one that they can continue into adulthood.  Life, after all, is competitive and we all face constant comparisons, rankings and rejections.  In all walks of life we have to deal with the disappointments as well as the successes.  It’s an emotional journey – as many of us have just witnessed our competing athletes go through.  If we want more gold winners in the future, we need a new generation of competitive young people to take British sport to the next level.

Of course, for this to happen, there needs to be the channels in place for our young protégés to pass through. A compulsory two hours of sport alone isn’t going to do it.  Local clubs and coaches, talent spotters and an appropriate hierarchy for development needs to exist.  My own experience of competitive sport at a young age was one where there was nowhere to go after reaching a certain level.  It is, however, a step in the right direction and one that will do well to capitalise from the legacy of London 2012.

The idea of team sports, as opposed to just participating in some form of exercise, is an important one.  It’s not just ‘competing’ that you might get out of playing a team sport.  It offers a community, a sense of belonging – the feeling that you are part of something.  That feeling of cohesion is a really valuable social factor, something that every person, young or old, should be privilege to.  I’m sure plenty of people get that in other areas of their lives, but for some people, their weekly Saturday match is the glue that holds them together when everything else around them is falling apart.

With 25 days to go until the annual Chariots of Fire relay race, a team of six Workplace Law runners are in training.  While most of us would simply be over the moon to run our 1.7 mile leg in the time it takes Mo Farah to run double the distance, we’re not discounting some healthy competition among us.  I for one am enjoying the shared goal, the camaraderie and most of all the drive to beat my time and set a personal best.  If I happen to beat any of the boys along the way, I won’t let it pass unknown!

Hooray for competitive sport.

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