Sport is often cited as setting the best example for young people for desirable values and qualities. At the current time, we are awash with sport and sporting household names that fill our TV screens and radio airwaves with their presence.
As I survey the sporting landscape, particularly in light of recent sporting stories, it appears that we still have some work to do on ensuring that sport does in fact promote the very best values to young people.
At Cheadle Hulme School, we are always conscious of the importance of setting the best example. We understand, as so many teachers do up and down the land, that we have an important part to play in educating young people in matters, not just of academic importance, but moral, spiritual and social importance too. We emphasise the need to be respectful to everyone within the community; to serve the interests of others and to offer support and guidance in times of anxiety, confusion or difficulty. Decency cannot be underestimated as a quality. In being decent, the individual displays modesty, morality and politeness.
Cue the Ashes
Now I know how important the Ashes are – really, I do. But the level of off-field commentary, sabre-rattling and on-the-pitch skulduggery is running the risk of undermining the very best aspects of the game and setting a poor example to young people. The Ashes are feisty – fact. And with the territory comes some tough talk and posturing. In one series I played in, one of the Aussie bowlers left a Love Heart sweet on the crease for our No.3, saying ‘Bye Bye Sweetheart’. Funny? Perhaps. Underhand tactics? You decide. It certainly had the desired effect. In the last week we have heard of physical threats, bad-tempered exchanges and belated apologies for disrespectful behaviour. One player has gone home with a stress-related illness.
I recently Tweeted a comment made by Sachin Tendulkar, in his last game, in which he reminded his team mates that ‘Each generation gets this opportunity to merely take care of the sport and to serve it to the best of (their) ability’. Notice how the sport of cricket is uppermost here; not personality or machismo character assassination. There is a deeply felt respect for the game – a sense of service that pervades Tendulkar’s comment. The Little Master indeed. Now recall Ashes shenanigans. (I can hardly bring myself to compare them.) Who would you have as your child’s sporting role model?
The Wearying Beat
Rebecca’s jungle journey is also exposing some uncomfortable truths – that she as much as anyone is a victim of society’s obsession with physical perfection and that being ‘just…a normal girl’ is somehow shameful or upsetting. A physique that made her so extraordinarily successful as an athlete does not appear to be such a cause for celebration away from the poolside. I sympathise with her; if you don’t fit a conventional form then you may well have to weather some storms. My hope is that Becky comes to terms with not being picture perfect – it is one of the wonderful things about her and what makes her achievements so potent for young people. Her example is one of sustained commitment over time, sacrifice, dedication and hard-earned success. A happy change to instant popularity achieved through the luck of nature or a Saturday voting forum.
Heroes and Heroines
In SPOTY then I pin my hopes. At the front of the pack, Ben ‘You Won’t Like Me When I Am Angry’ Ainslie. A thinking sportsman; a competitor who, when riled, does his talking through absolute focus on his game and the near perfect execution of skill. Others shortlisted show all that is great about sport and the qualities that are required to succeed in it. (Of course, even SPOTY isn’t perfect – could they have photo-shopped Clare Balding, Gary Linekar and Gabby Logan any more extensively?)
It is not up to sports people to be the sole ambassadors for decency. Who else should set the best example?
Closer To Home
At CHS, we have turned to our senior prefects in the School Council to ask that they set out their own student Code of Conduct for their peers to follow. It’s a difficult thing for them to do, but our belief is that we are all in this together and they are as much a part of the School’s current and future success as anyone. We want to engage them and all the students in understanding that their community is as good as they choose to make it. They have much great advice to pass on to younger members of the School; we seek to discuss, share and agree the values that we believe in.
If I want to see the best examples of decency, then I need look no further than the Cheadle Hulme School community.
Head, Lucy Pearson