Out of bounces

school of sport:with TIM MIDDLETON

“THE wonderful thing about Tiggers,” as any parent who has read AA Milne’s Winnie The Pooh stories to his child (or watched the Disney films) will know, “is Tiggers are wonderful things.” Tigger lives with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood and bounces around enthusiastically and with great excitement. He describes Tiggers at another point in his exuberant way: “Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs. They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers, is I’m the only one. IIIII’m the only one!” He is the only one; he is unique.

In various ways Tigger from the Hundred Acre Wood resembles Tiger Woods, the unique, athletic golfer whose play energises crowds – he is, after all, a wonderful golfer, unique in many ways. He also has come up with some important insights, including, “No matter how good you get you can always get better, and that’s the exciting part” (which almost has echoes of Tigger). Elsewhere he declared that, “If you are not improving, you are getting worse”. Overall, his view is that, “I want to be what I’ve always wanted to be: dominant.”

It would appear that a worker at a local golf course got these two charismatic characters confused as on the wall bordering one of the fairways are painted the words “OUT OF BOUNCE”, when what was meant was clearly “Out of Bounds”. However, what this person has helpfully done is show that there is little difference between being out of bounds and out of bounce (between Tiger Woods and Tigger of a Hundred Acre Wood). These are two areas where Tiger and Tigger teach us greatly with regard to sport and indeed life.

The first is the importance of not going out of bounds. By saying that an area is out of bounds, the course designers are saying the golfer is wasting his time going there (the side-lines of a soccer or rugby pitch are saying the same thing). It is not good to be there; it is not going to help by being out there. As a result, in golf there is a two-shot penalty for those going out of bounds, which are probably the two shots that would be required to get the ball back in play from hazardous conditions anyway – in team games using a pitch, the penalty for going “out of bounds” is giving the opposition the ball and the chance to go on the offensive. There are areas in sport that it simply is not worth or appropriate for us to venture. So, we in turn, need to help our youngsters to learn to keep to the straight and narrow if they are to avoid incurring penalties. There are areas that are out of bounds in life.

The second lesson to learn is the importance of not being out of bounce. While it does not pay us to be out of bounds, so neither does it pay us to be out of bounce. We might view this in saying that we need what some soccer managers have defined as ‘bouncebackability’, that being the ability to bounce back from failure, defeat and disappointment, with a renewed energy, resolve and understanding. Golf allows us to do this the very next hole, failing which the next round, the next tournament. So, in school and in life, the next test, the next day, the next year offer our youngsters those chances to bounce back. More than that, though, in thinking of not running out of bounce, we might consider the book called Bounce by Matthew Syed, a former English national Table Tennis champion, which explores what makes champions in sport and life. Syed argues that “training trumps talent every time”, and goes on to explain the science of deliberate, purposeful practice, the mindset of high performers and how we can use them to bounce back and higher.

We should just add that even great golfers can end up out of bounds (both on the golf course and indeed in life); Tiger Woods has bounced back from scandals and injuries, perhaps influenced by his mantra (which again has echoes of Tigger), “The greatest thing about tomorrow is I will be better than I am today.” A lack of bounce will often lead us to go out of bounds, which in turn will only increase the likelihood of further lack of bounce; we cannot afford for that to happen. So, when Tigger says that, “Tiggers don’t jump; they bounce!” we must do the same! That would be wonderful, for sure — tiggerific, in fact!

l Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Association of Trust Schools Email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw

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