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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Cricket versus Barbarism

Having just returned from watching the German Cup Final, with all of the diving, playing for fouls, and general gamesmanship that are often just accepted as part of the modern game, I find myself drifting towards one of my perennial ruminations about the place of "sport" in professional sport.  

Then I found an short earlier post about another game.  And it seemed pertinent, somehow.


I'd like to start with a quiz. Who said this
“Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket ..; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen.”
I will reveal the answer at the end of this entry.

The stimulus for my mention of cricket is an interesting article in the magazine All About Cricket. The author, Safi Thind, reports on the emergence of a number of initiatives that have used cricket as a vehicle to combat problems like misbehaviour at school and youth delinquency.

For example,

"StreetChance "aims to increase aspiration, promote mutual respect, and enhance relationships with others, including schools, police and the wider community by providing structured coaching and competitive opportunities for young people."

Another charity - Cricket for Change - gives some clues about the selection of cricket as the means to these ends:

"We see cricket, because of its history throughout the world, as being uniquely able to transcend the major urban racial groups, black, white and Asian and because it's a non-contact game, is also uniquely able to help young people with a disability share in the benefits of competitive team sport.

We believe that cricket can be used to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities and for the last 30 years we have used our unique cricket programmes to help young people, in particular, make positive choices about their lives and to help them feel good about themselves."

Cricket, above all other sports that emerged from Victorian Britain (which is, let's face it, almost all sports) has the reputation for developing decent behaviour.

This was the view of the philosopher David Stove. Cricket, he wrote, “requires gentlemanliness, and teaches it”. And such gentlemanliness is expressed both in the nature of the game (and its often extreme delays of gratification) and its spirit. In other words, cricket teaches decent behaviour by providing an environment in which such behaviour is practiced.

Of course, it is not difficult to undermine a simple equation between cricket and civility: bodyline, ball-tampering, match fixing, and so on. But that the vast majority of cricket matches manage to maintain an over-riding air of good manners and good spirits - even at the very highest levels - does suggest that these schemes are on to something.

And the source of the claim that cricket civilises people that I quoted at the start of this entry? It was that great humanitarian Robert Mugabe.


And if Mugabe cannot persuade you of the virtues of cricket, take a look at the story of a truly remarkable Cricket club: the Compton Cricket club in California, USA ...

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Five Books (not about Coaching) that can Transform your Coaching

STOP PRESS: I am delighted to announce that Arton 'Float Sting ' Baleci and I are running a new course on learning - for coaches, teachers and other learners!For more information, and the register, please go to:

It seems to me that coaching, and teaching in general, are basically thinking activities. Thought is required in planning, throughout delivery of sessions, and during the reflective phase that necessarily follows it (at least, it is a necessary element  

All of the good and great coaches and teachers I have known have had ceaselessly enquiring minds. And most of them have repeatedly stepped away from the cosy certainties offered by their areas of specialism, and have looked elsewhere in the pursuit of new insights and new ways of thinking.

I certainly do not regard myself as a great coach or teacher, but I have benefited enormously, both professionally and personally, from the books I list here have inspired me, others have infuriated or disorientated me. But all of them have left their mark on my thinking about thinking about sport. 

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceDon't be put off by the title: it is not really about motorcycles, or about Zen.  This is an engaging, thought-provoking book, probably best described as 'philosophical fiction'. The discussion about the nature and development of Quality, in particular, should be of great interest and relevance to coaches and teachers.

"We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world."

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Sometimes mistaken for a story about a seagull. OK, it is a story about a seagull. But is also a parable about skill, perfection, and the meaning of a life worth living.  And it is very short.

"Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”

Ben Goldacre, Bad Science
Sports coaching is awash with bullshit.  Gimmicks, fads, and magical nonsense rob us all of time, money, and professional integrity.  Read this funny and shocking book, and see the light!

"Repeat after me: pharma being shit does not mean magic beans cure cancer."

Gary Marcus, Guitar ZeroA cognitive scientist tries to learn to play the guitar. This is probably the best book, to date, that tries to bridge the gap between what is known about how people learn complicated skills and what this can mean in practice.  However, just as important is the author's account of the joys and frustrations of learning and then mastering a new skill.  A great book.

"To dismiss talent is to ignore all evidence from biology.”

Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
A psychiatrist chronicles is experiences as an inmate at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. Frankl's story is remarkable, and it is beautifully told. The lessons he learned and shares from this nightmare are, for many people, life changing. His discussion of the importance of meaning in one's life has enormous implications for education and sport.

"Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'."

STOP PRESS: I am delighted to announce that Arton 'Float Sting ' Baleci and I are running a new course on learning - for coaches, teachers and other learners!For more information, and the register, please go to: