school of sport:with TIM MIDDLETON
IN most professional sports, the national bodies have a league competition as well as a knockout cup competition and great interest is shown in both. However, much debate does exist with regard to which of those two competitions produces the real champion — the league or the cup? Most people would argue that the league champions are the better team as they have performed at a high standard throughout a whole season, week in week out. They have to perform consistently well against all opposing strong teams (though opponents would point out that the champions can probably afford to have the odd ‘off’ day during the season). In contrast, others will argue that the Cup winners are the true champions as there is pressure on them in every game; they have to win every game as it is a knock-out competition. They cannot afford any slip-ups. Supporters of the league, though, of course, will point out though that the cup is a lottery where you may get a lucky draw (all matches at home, weaker opposition and so on).
At the end of the day the debate is in fact inconsequential, but it does highlight an important point about competition. It is only in real competition that top performance results. We may reflect on the 34th America’s Cup in 2013 which turned into a thrilling sailing contest when the Oracle team lost the first six races, won the seventh, then lost the next two races which meant that the Emirates Team only needed to win one more race to wrest the trophy from their opponents. In contrast, Team Oracle had to win every one of the remaining nine races to retain the trophy; they could not afford any slip-up. They had to win every race — simple as that! And that they did do, amazingly, to provide arguably one of the greatest comebacks in sport!
The masters of this are Yolo, Fomo and Dodo, which may sound like a group of delegates at a ‘Lord of the Rings’ Convention or indeed a Brazilian midfield combination, but is in fact something different. As anyone below the age of twenty knows, Yolo is a popular acronym for ‘You Only Live Once’. If you only have one chance at anything you have to make the most of it. We often hear managers who are in danger of relegation say that “every match is a cup final”, but better performances will result if we treat every match as a knock-out match. Yolo is a tough competitor.
Fomo is also another popular acronym for teenagers, standing for the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. It refers of course to what is known as the adrenaline rush, where we do outstanding feats when our adrenaline kicks in. While teenagers may not want to miss out on social events, sports people do not want to miss out on the next round, the next league, the next level. Without competition, there is little adrenaline. When the stakes are high we can perform at our best; we need to face tough competition for us to perform at the highest level or else we will miss out.
We are all familiar with the demise of the dodo, the flightless bird that became extinct. It is commonly believed that the dodo became extinct because it had no fear of humans and also could not move fast, making itself easy prey for anyone. Such an attitude can be applicable to sporting contests; those who do not move fast and who have no awareness of the threat of the opposition are likely to fade from the scene. Furthermore, it also applies to our wider life. Dodo could well stand for ‘Do Or Die Out’. If we are not careful, we may not have any second chances.
Add to those three the likes of Logo (‘Learn Or Get Out’, which actually was the wonderful motto of a school in Jamaica), and Wiwo (‘Week In Week Out’) and you have got a winning team and a winning format. But what it comes down to is this: competition is not just about surviving, depriving, driving and striving — it is about thriving as well. Competition teaches our children to play each match as if it is the last; to live each day as if it is the last; to conduct each business opportunity as if it is the last. It can also teach us to treat each session as if it is the last one we will have with them — so we have to make the most of it. We are not only to seize the day, to grab the opportunity with both hands with great vigour and energy, but also to squeeze the day, to get every last drop out of it. Competition not only can bring out the best in us; it can enable us to be the best. So we must do everything to ensure our children grasp that reality. If we do, it will be a knock.
l Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Association of Trust Schools (ATS) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org!