Tag Archives: sport

Some sporting rants

I don’t normally talk about sport on the blog, but as a bit of a change and as a space to get things off my chest, here goes a bit of ungraciousness.

Cricket

The last test match against Sri Lanka was certainly entertaining  – at least from the perspective of the neutral purist. The dogged resistance that England showed on the final day was a great credit to the tailenders and especially to Moeen Ali. The fact that we ultimately lost the game was not primarily due to failure of the rearguard action, but to a failure much earlier in the game.

England have some very talented players. Though I thought Bell was a spare part in the 2005 Ashes series, he has gone on to become a fine batsman and one of the world’s best fielders to boot. Joe Root is a brilliant prospect and, barring injury, I expect him take over the England captaincy somewhere between 4 and 7 years from now.

Yet it is frustrating that the capabilities of the England team are so far in excess of their achievements over the past year. The player under the most scrutiny (some fair, some not) has been the captain, Alistair Cook. Over the last year he has averaged just 25 with the bat and failed to effectively captain the side.

I differ from the BBC cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew, in that I think the time is right for Cook to have his captaincy taken away from him in order that he may focus on improving his batting, given the weakness he has just outside his off stump, ruthlessly exploited by the Australians, continued by the Sri Lankans and will be well-known to the Indians who come here on tour next month.

If it were purely on his batting form then one could make the argument for simply moving him down the order so that he doesn’t face the new ball. What bothers me about his captaincy is that he doesn’t seem to know how to take charge of his bowlers. In the Headingly test just gone, our seam bowlers repeatedly bowled too short. At one stage in the game, over 80% of the wickets had fallen to balls that we pitched just slightly fuller than a good length. Yet these seemed to be aberrations and not the bowling plan.

Yes, the bowlers should have known better, but the captain should be the one with the strategy in mind, telling his bowlers where and how to bowl. A good bowler should be able, by and large, to stick to that and set a field accordingly. Then the wicketkeeper should be the next in line, as the person best placed to make observations and suggestions on how to subtly alter the field so as to effect a wicket.

My proposal then would be to appoint Bell as captain and push Cook down the order. With an average of 25, it might be fitting to put him at number 8, though that may be a bit too humiliating.

Football

Suarez and the biting incident

Well, everyone knows Suarez bit an opponent. Again.

Not only is that bad enough, but in his comments after the match he didn’t show any sign of acknowledging that it was wrong. It is another instance of a player who has a violent temperament going off the rails. Given he has been punished before about the very same matter, he clearly hasn’t learnt that it is totally unacceptable behaviour that has no place on the football field. As such, I cannot see what good reason FIFA could have for imposing anything but the maximum penalty of a 2 year ban, hopefully from all forms of competitive football.

The fact that he is one of the most talented forwards in the game should have no bearing on any disciplinary verdict. It should be the same whether he is the striker for Liverpool and Uruguay or Scunthorpe and San Marino.

England living down to expectations

So, the England team are back home now. The fact is, we expected it. We don’t have a strong squad. The fact that we played quite well against Italy in the opening game was a pleasant surprise. Yet many of the players are relatively unknown even in the Premiership, overshadowed by their colleagues who come from more successful countries.

Attention tends to focus on two people: Roy Hodgson and Wayne Rooney. I don’t think Roy did a bad job with the squad he had. The fact is that there aren’t many talented English footballers who can play well on the big stage. What we have is lots of players who are decent in a domestic league but just can’t handle the important matches. Rooney is the prime example of this. For too long, he has been the first name on the team sheet on the basis of him being a good club player who has scored a fair number of international goals against minor nations who show no sign of getting to the quarter finals of any major tournaments. He has been given plenty of opportunity to do well but has consistently failed to reproduce his club form at international level. I would like to say ‘drop him’ but I honestly don’t know who we would replace him with. He’s not deserving of a place in the England team, but that is more an indictment against English football as a whole than it is about one player.

It used to be the case that world cups, in putting together international teams, plucking the best players from each club and teaming them up together underneath their country’s flag. With the amounts of money now in circulation among the “big” clubs, it now seems that the Champions League is the showcase for the best talent plucked from each country and teaming them up together under their club banner.

What is a faith school really like? Part 3: Sport, standards and legacy

Here, I conclude my look at what life was like in a faith school, where I was educated between the ages of 7 and 16. This doesn’t cover every aspect of school life, but I think it gives a fair impression, often contrary to the portrait painted by those fundamentally opposed to faith schools. For the other posts in this series, please see here:

Sports

The way PE was done might be considered a little odd; in hindsight it probably was. This was largely due to the small size of the school. The boys and girls would have separate lessons, but I can’t really comment on the girls’ lessons since I was never there.

The church had, as an additional ministry to the school, a theological college. Various people from inside and outside the church would come and attend small classes, preparing them for either church leadership or missionary work. It was these ministers-in-training who would lead the PE lessons and they had fairly free reign in what they chose to do. As it happened, at just about the time I moved to the MLC, the 2 ministers-in-training consistent of a former tank driver and a hot-headed Scottish rugby enthusiast (who was also married to the pastor’s daughter!).

Consequently, they introduced rugby to the school, which we had never played before. Previously the autumn/winter sport of choice was football. The rugby was kind of a mixture of league and union, and was semi-contact, rather than full contact. So we had lineouts, mauls and scrums, but not rucks. To tackle someone, you had to get both palms of your hands on someone’s torso or arm, but you weren’t supposed to use excessive force (this rule wasn’t always followed, not least by the PE teachers themselves). The trouble was that the MLC had a spread of ages. I joined the MLC early, at the age of 10, and was playing with boys up to the age of 16. As such, there was a significant physical difference and I did not enjoy myself one little bit.

In the summer term, rugby gave way to volleyball, which I was actually very good at, in spite of my short stature. Occasionally, though, we would do athletics. I had a reasonably good technique on the discus, and I was always better on the long distance runs than the short sprints.

Academic Standards

The school was subject to regular OFSTED inspections just as any other school would be and, as far I know, always came out with a clean bill of health. Being a small school, we were limited in what we could offer. At the time I did my options in year 9, the total number of GCSEs one could sit was 9. I sat all 9. After I went to sixth form college, I met people who had done between 10 and 13 GCSEs, but such extravagance was not afforded to us. I may have been able to do more, but I suppose we will never know.

Of course, the ultimate aim of a school is to educate students. One of the key measures of this is the exam results and you can also trace how their subsequent academic career has panned out.

By the time I left, the school was on the wane. The school regularly outperformed all the other local schools in terms of their GCSE results and the sixth form college that I went onto held the school in extremely high regard as the handful of students it turned out every year were well-rounded, hard-working students with good academic pedigree.

The staff taught multiple subjects, which I think was unusual compared to most schools. The principal, who was qualified to be a chemistry teacher, taught chemistry, one half of the biology syllabus, history and geography. The vice principal, who was qualified to teach maths, taught maths, physics and the other half of the biology syllabus. The one teacher who was qualified to teach history actually taught English language, English literature and also French. The French was interesting, as our regular French teacher left shortly after getting married, but since one foreign language was compulsory, we were in a bit of a rut. So this teacher was actually learning French at evening classes and then teaching us on a lag of about a month. The fact that one-third of her first class (i.e. 2 of us) got a grade A made her quite chuffed. Her husband taught us the first year of IT, with her eldest son teaching us the second year. This was an odd situation, as her other son was in the year below me, so he ended up having his elder brother as his teacher, as well as his mum!

Not everyone lived up to their full potential, probably with no one falling shorter of what they were capable of than myself. In my mock GCSEs I picked up 7 A* and 2 A grades. At this point I became a little arrogant and embarked upon reading the entirety of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, with the bulk of my revision being done with the BBC Bitesize. Now Bitesize was designed for people who would struggle to pass and contained very little to take people from an A grade to an A*. Consequently, I dropped a grade on 8 out of my 9 GCSEs and ended up with a pretty poor showing of 1 A*, 6 A and 2 B grades. Some might say that they were good results. But given that my mock exams had me on 7A*s and 2As, I was pretty gutted.

Legacy

When I left in 2000, the size of the school had dipped to just 38 students (aged between 7 & 16, remember); at times it had been nearly double that. My year, with 6 people in it when we finished year 11, was one of the largest year groups there was. The school closed down a few years after I left. There simply weren’t enough children coming through and so the projected funds weren’t enough to keep it going. I was informed of this during my 1st year at university, though I can’t recall if it shut down mid-way through 2003 or 2004.

To characterise the school as a centre for indoctrination would be grossly wrong. An intrinsic part of it being a christian school was that it actively promoted sceptical thinking and free enquiry. While some chose to become christians whilst there or after leaving, others did not. There was no coercion of any kind to force people down one route or another. There were some who chose to become christians while they were at the school, some who made the choice afterwards. There were some who later rejected christianity and some who

Today, I am a christian. But am I a christian because of my decade at a christian school? No. I would say I am a christian despite having spent a decade in a christian school. Over the time I was there, the church became more and more conservative. Some of this leached into the school, although the headmaster was avowed Thatcherite. Having learned to think critically, I rejected this conservatism in favour of a far more sensible worldview that was in closer accordance to the christianity I discovered for myself through reading the bible and conversing with others. This is a process that carried on after I left school, went through sixth form college, university and in my working professional life.

My decade in a faith school made me a life-long learner.