Sport and/or Politics?25th November 2022
We are over the hump of the half term now. It’s downhill through to the Christmas break. I know that you know that does not mean we will be taking our foot off the pedal. I know that you know that this period means hard work, persistence and commitment, which will need to be maintained through until the Christmas break. But we can at least see where that break is, albeit on a distant horizon.
Although at first reading my notes this week might seem to be yet again about sport, if you can just carry on and bear with me.
I’m old enough to remember the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. That’s the first time, as a pre-teenager, (you can have a go at working out how old I am) that I became aware of the tension between sport and politics. At that time the USSR (Russia and its wider empire) had invaded Afghanistan. The western world, and in particular the USA, took exception to this and boycotted the Olympics that year. Other countries followed suit and there was a significant debate in this country as to whether the British and NI Olympic team should not travel to Moscow. In the UK a campaign was started, at the time, to keep politics out of sport and that campaign had some success; the British and NI Olympic team did travel to Moscow. Four years later, with the Olympics in Los Angeles, the USSR and other eastern bloc countries did not travel and attend.
Why am I rambling on about that? Prior to this World Cup and throughout the first week we have had numerous examples of sport and politics being totally interwoven. There’s not one issue or one country which has been at the heart of these conversations. There have been multiple issues across multiple countries; some of which are overtly domestic and some of which are international. What’s been marked and interesting for me to observe are the positions taken by the sports people (the footballers and their coaching staff) themselves. It’s absolutely clear that across a number of nations and teams these young men are politically savvy and confident enough to express their views on a whole range of issues. The press conferences from FIFA have obviously concentrated on football, but the journalists have asked important, insightful and challenging questions, about a whole range of issues, which one might describe as political. Very few of these young men have stepped aside from or dodged those questions. Many have taken those questions on and have offered strong views. Some of those young men will, as a consequence, be open to potential reprimand, even punishment and imprisonment, when they return home. Yet they make a stand!
We talk a lot in our schools and college about responsibility. It’s one of our key tenants across the trust. We ask our children and young people to take responsibility; for their actions and the actions of others. That’s desperately important. We should be working with our children and young people to prepare them for the world in which they will work and prosper. Asking them to think about how they might contribute and giving them opportunities to do so within the safe environment of our schools and college is really important; and much overlooked by those who want to hold schools to account via narrow criteria.
As I spend time at Sitwell, Oakwood and TRC I see in our pupil and student body opportunities being offered and taken by our children and young people; they are wanting and willing to take on responsibility.
Down at Sitwell Junior School across the day, and especially at break and lunchtime, we have Head Pupils and Value Leaders out on the playground working with younger children, establishing games and sports for them to play, intervening when there are disagreements – just outstanding!
Oakwood has its pupil leadership team; through form representatives in the school council, to house captains, to the head pupils. All of whom play a proactive and significant role in establishing the ethos and culture within the school – influential!
Thomas Rotherham College has students involved in running clubs, staffing the LRC and working as TRC Crew at events and open evenings – impressive!
Not all of our children and young people will be politically that savvy. Not all will want to engage in taking roles and responsibility. But we, as educators, must not prevent our children or young people from taking the opportunities to take that responsibility, which in turn prepares them for life where having strong opinions, taking a stance, taking responsibility, being accountable and, even, being politically savvy is open to them / necessary / critical to societal progression.
‘You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today’. Abraham Lincoln
‘The price of greatness is responsibility’. Winston Churchill
Those quoted don’t get much bigger than those two!
The future looks a lot brighter than the past ever did