The 2015 Rugby World Cup in some respects was more about the coaches than the players. What stood out was that a number of coaches are creating more empowering environments than in previous years. The skills needed to achieve this are requiring a mind-set shift from coaches.
Many schools make use of “external” coaches to coach sport yet these coaches don’t always appear to be taking their job seriously – very often just pitching up and getting paid. Coaching sport is a great responsibility that requires being technically proficient as well as having the ability to grow the skills of your players. A coach must lead by example. Both schools and coaches must invest in enriching coaches for the benefit of the school, the coaches and most importantly the kids.
What is the role of sport in the school environment? Sport is one of the tools available to an educator as it can teach many important life lessons such as teamwork, humility, winning and losing and safe risk-taking all of which contribute to the rounding of a character. And the importance of schools winning all their matches? Each school will have its share of wins – there is no need to contrive one.
With increasing pressure to succeed on the sports field, many schools, particularly boys’ schools seem to becoming more and more like sporting academies rather than educational institutions. Early success is a weak predictor of adult elite performance and coaches need to allow children to develop the necessary skills to perform by focusing on skills development and not winning “at-all-costs.” There is no quick fix to success.
There is an increase in inappropriate aggression on sports fields around the world from parents, coaches and players alike. The reasons are varied but stem from an increasing pressure to succeed. Sport is competitive by its nature, but winning doesn’t need to be achieved by aggressive sportsmanship. Such behaviours can result in physical and/or psychological damage to young players and needs to be addressed by all stakeholders.
As sport becomes ever more professional it seems that it is a difficult task to hold down a job and put in the training required to perform at the highest level. Two South African runners have recently dispelled this myth by winning the Comrades Marathon and working full-time. Dual careers are becoming more common place and research has shown that a balanced approach to sport enhances success on the field of play.
The objective of playing sport is winning. However, the focus of achieving the result should not be on the outcome, but rather on the process of getting there. We can control the process, but not the outcome. Mastering the skills required to win is a long-term process that requires dedication, patience, hard work, self-awareness and resilience among other traits. Our young athletes today seem to want it all without the effort.