school of sport:with TIM MIDDLETON
THERE is no question that boxers lay their lives on the line and many onlookers will wonder why on earth anyone would put themselves through such pain, trauma and suffering.
Are boxers in their right senses? Such a thought may cross our mind further when we consider a remark made by an American boxer, Marlon Starling, who once held the WBA and WBC World welterweight titles. In his pursuit of these titles one man stood in his way, the British boxer, Lloyd Honeyghan, and Starling was recorded as saying: “I’ll fight Lloyd Honeyghan for nothing if the price is right”!
Robin Hood was involved in boxing of a different sort. His sport, as we all will know, was to steal from the rich to give to the poor. In the popular 1991 film, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, the singer Bryan Adams had a hit record with his rendition of a song entitled, Everything I do, I do it for you.
The song contained the following telling lines: Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for; You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for; You know it’s true, Everything I do, I do it for you … Look into your heart, You will find, There’s nothin’ there to hide. Take me as I am, Take my life, I would give it all, I would sacrifice… Don’t tell me it’s not worth fightin’ for; I can’t help it, there’s nothin’ I want more. You know it’s true, everything I do, I do it for you.
It is interesting that some schools now use that song as one of their war cries before, during and after a sporting fixture (though it might just be added that it does not exactly lend itself easily or naturally to a war cry). “Everything I do, I do it for you.” How do the words of the song apply to sport? They are playing the fixture for the love of the school; they are facing the opposition on behalf of the faithful supporters. It is worth fighting for; there is nothing we want more. So, here is the thing: if it is worth fighting for, will we do it for nothing?
The cry of the modern professional sportsperson, however, would probably be more accurately summed up in the words, “Everything I do, I do it for me.” Will we do sport for nothing, really? There is a price involved, after all. Will all these players, who are paid vast sums of money to play sport, play for nothing? The Covid-19 pandemic, which has put sport (and indeed everything else) in turmoil, may well yet put an end to sportspeople being paid massive salaries; when many are being asked to take a salary cut to help their club through the crisis, some are now showing their true colours. Would such players play sport for nothing? Would they play sport simply for us?
We often talk about doing sport out of love, but love speaks of a relationship, so what is our relationship with sport? Is it a healthy, two-way relationship? We give greatly to sport, but does sport give anything back or is it a one-sided relationship (where sport takes, takes, takes)? It takes our integrity, our time, our life, our other relationships and more besides. Sport requires us to make sacrifices but what sacrifices will sport make for us in return? How can we love someone who does not love or give anything in return? However, does our love for another person depend on whether the price is right? Do we only love if we get something in return? Some love, that!
At school we introduce our children to sport; we begin a relationship between the child and sport. As with any relationship, it begins with an introduction.
Sometimes there is an immediate connection or chemistry, where the two parties click. Sometimes it is a love that grows and develops, through understanding, appreciation, respect and delight. True love gives. Will we teach our youngsters of the appropriateness of doing sport for love? Are we helping their love for sport to grow? So, could we return to the days of amateur sport, where we do it for love of the sport, not for the love of ourselves, our club or school, our bank statement?
Perhaps we need to look into our heart, search our soul, and consider why we do sport and, what is more, how we are introducing our children to sport. Perhaps we do indeed need to redress the balance and find ways for us to do sport for love. Perhaps we should heed the age-old advice about love when it comes to sport: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.” In other words, will we do sport for nothing, but only if the price is right?
l Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools. Email: email@example.com.