Category Archive • Sport
December 08, 2004
"… I might get bored in the City …"

BenDurham.jpgIt's alright for some:

… Ben Durham, the 21-year-old blind-side flanker, was the beating heart of Oxford's dominant forward effort, both with ball and in the tackle. Still, despite Oxford's attempts to keep him, Durham’s brain is even more sought after, and next September he heads for the City to work for Goldman Sachs, eschewing a professional rugby career with Gloucester.

"I’ve been at Oxford four years now and I should probably think about leaving," Durham, who earned a first class degree in economics and management and is studying for an MSc in economic history, said. "I played as a professional with Gloucester until my second year (at Oxford) and I found it quite dull. I should imagine if you are Jonny Wilkinson it's fantastic, but being a professional in the Premiership does not appeal.

"With an Oxford degree behind me I think I should go and explore some wider options. Besides, they (professional clubs) won't pay me enough."

Durham, who was educated at Pate's Grammar School in Cheltenham and studies at Keble College, won his third Blue and enjoyed a first win. "I'm glad we won, or I might never have left Oxford," he said. Instead of making hay in the mud at Kingsholm come September, Durham aims to start his job in UK mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs, the American investment bank. This may even have been his last game.

"If I play I want to play good rugby, not just kickabout stuff, but you never know, I might get bored in the City," he said.

Steve Hill, Oxford's director of rugby, has not given up hope of keeping Durham. "Ben is one of the brightest boys we’ve had in the team," Hill said. "He's expressed an interest in being captain and he has secured serious funding from research bodies at Oxford to stay for another three years if he wants it. Maybe his bank will defer until after next Christmas."

Decisions, decisions.

Good to remind ourselves that for some, education still manages to work out quite well.

Oxford won 18-11.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:32 PM
Category: Higher educationSport
October 20, 2004
The Marciulionis school

Kirsty Wark, on the telly, has been journeying around Eastern, post-Soviet Europe. And I caught the last bit of a report she did about a very interesting school, different from the usual sort:

As expected, Lithuania's largest cities have the most affluent club settings. The Sarunas Marciulionis Basketball School in Vilnius is perhaps the most well known of the developmental clubs. …

Marciulionis.jpgThe Marciulionis school is located on an unassuming site which also houses the magnificent Sarunas Hotel. The Sarunas is known as one of the finest overnight accommodations available in Vilnius. Inside the training facility, three full-sized NBA courts lie side by side under one roof. Each of these courts see plenty of training action during the week with some 750 boys enrolled in the various age group training programs. The Marciulionis Basketball School believes in a holistic approach to player development. Every boy enrolled in the Marciulionis school takes classes in the English language and computer science. Formal classes on character development and social etiquette are also a part of the supplemental curriculum. International travel is also one of the basic tenets of the Marcilionis approach. Teams from the school have traveled to 25 countries since it's formation in 1992. The lobby of the Marciulionis school houses one of the most interesting collection of basketball shoes ever assembled. Many great NBA stars (Jordan, Barkley, Drexler, etc.) have donated pairs of the signed shoes for this one-of-a-kind exhibit.

This place was founded by and is named after the great Lithuanian basketball player Sarunas Marciulionis, pictured above right.

I wish there were more schools like this in England, catering for the sporty types, bringing the best out of them instead of the worst, turning them into noble and honourable young men instead of embittered, knife wielding bullies.

When I was a schoolboy, my school, Marlborough, used to play sports against a rival fee-paying school called Millfield, who built their entire system around sport, which meant they were very, very good at it. I can still recall the Millfield rugby team demolishing the Marlborough 1st XV, with a dazzling exhibition of pace and passing from their backs such as I have seldom witnessed since, despite a lifetime of TV rugby watching. Millfield is still going strong, it would seem. But, unless things have changed completely, it costs. A lot. The Marciulionis school presumably demands far less from its parents.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:16 PM
Category: Sport
September 16, 2004
How a special talent can get you a good general education – Chetham's and Real Madrid

Last time I was in touch with her family, the news of Goddaughter II was that she is hoping to get to Chetham's School of Music, on the back of her cello playing, which is apparently improving fast.

The great thing about Chetham's is that (a) it produces lots of excellent musicians, and,(b) just as vital, it produces lots of excellent non-musicians, people who excelled at music when they were kids, but who then went on to do other things in later life, with equal enthusiasm and distinction. Chetham's supplies great music education, and great non-music education. No wonder Goddaughter II's family are so keen on her to try to get there. Hope she does it. Even if she doesn't, the attempt will stretch her in all the right ways, I think. (I hope.)

And now here is another story, this time culled from googling about strangers, of a kid with one great talent, who is about to have his education built around that.

Spanish football giants Real Madrid have added a seven-year-old boy from Brighton to their ranks of superstars.

Niall Mason impressed Real at a two-week summer course at the club so much that they asked him to join their prestigious Escuela Deportivo de Futbol Federation Madrid.

He becomes the latest English player on Real's books following the signings of David Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate.

Niall will train twice a week for eight months at the academy with his schooling continuing at a local English school.

The Mason family, including his mother Mimosa, father Russell and three-year-old sister Maya, are all moving to Madrid where they will live in a flat close to Real's Bernabeu stadium.

Sounds like a somewhat Spanish family already, doesn't it? Well, good luck to them all.

Everything depends, with a story like this, on the way that the adults handle things. Do they bet everything on Niall becoming a soccer star, and then treat him, and make him treat himself, like a total failure if that doesn't work out? Or do they teach him soccer, and teach him the kind of things that a star institution like Real Madrid can teach him about life in general, and thereby prepare him well for whatever life may bring him.

I'm optimistic about Niall's chances. I don't think that Real would have gone to all this bother for Niall if they didn't like the look of his family background as well as his soccer skills. And I have enough respect for Real as educators ("Escuela Deportivo de Futbol Federation Madrid" sounds like they take all this pretty seriously), not only to hope that things will go well for Niall, but actually to think it, regardless of whether he ever makes it in big time soccer. Sorry: "Futbol".

Besides which, the Real futbol team may find themselves needing him quite soon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:35 PM
Category: GlobalisationHow to teachSport
June 21, 2004
How to teach arithmetic to boys

I've spent most of my blogging time today writing a ridiculously long piece about the complexities of qualifying out of the group matches at the European Soccer Championships, and a link from here to there is all I can offer today.

Here, gratuitously, is the picture I used to illustrate the kind of stuff I was writing about.


The educational relevance? Well, simply that sporting arithmetic is a great way to teach arithmetic to small boys. I still remember with pleasure the day I explained about fractions to a small boy, by talking about a soccer game.

And I dare say there's even the occasional girl who might be persuaded to take maths a bit more seriously with talk about sport.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:35 PM
Category: Boys will be boysMathsSport
June 17, 2004
Freedom teaches love – unfreedom teaches hatred

Why is adult life, when it is, better than the life of a child? For many adults it isn't, for the simple reason that when they were kids they didn't have to work that hard or struggle that hard, but as adults they do.

But for many adults, life is just massively better then it was when they were kids, and for them, I think that the reason for this is that when they were kids they had to do things they didn't like, and above they had to do things with certain other kids whom they did not like and who did not like them. Simply on happiness grounds, I think "streaming" into different types is a good thing. As an ex-nerd, I recall finding the jocks intimidating and scary. I'm sure the jocks found the nerds like me annoying, and perhaps intellectually intimidating. So why the hell were we forced into each others' company so relentlessly? Why couldn't the nerds have gone to a nerd-school, and the jocks to a jock-school? At the very least, could not the life of a one-regime-fits-all school at least have some slightly different regimes embedded within it? Insofar as the schools I went to did, I enjoyed them. Insofar as I was forced into jock-company and jocks were forced into my company, I would … rather have been somewhere else.

Occasionally, on holiday, I would blunder into some fragment of life where the company was totally congenial and appreciative of me, and where I immediately set about learning the rules of the place, so that I would fit in. Because I wanted to fit in. It was like going to heaven for a week, and it made me a massively better person, immediately. Then it would stop and I would have to go back to school. Then they let me out permanently, and I was allowed to search for places where everyone liked me and where I liked everyone, and where monster-jocks were polite visitors, and life got good and has stayed good ever since.

I know why I was supposed to endure the monster-jocks, and why they were supposed to endure me. That is to say, I know the words people use to excuse this absurdity. Spending time with uncongenial people whom you hate and who hate you is "good for you". You learn to understand other points of view, other attitudes.

No you don't. You learn to hate other points of view and to hate other attitudes. You love what you are allowed freely to acquaint yourself with, dipping into it, and venturing further if you fancy it. That's how you learn to love. I'll say it again because it is so important. Forcing people into each others' company who do not appreciate each others' company teaches not love, or respect, or toleration, or even merely silent politeness; it teaches hatred.

All of which was intended to be a mere preamble to a comment on and link to this, this being a BBC report about how having special jock schools can make jocks less nasty and less unhappy.

I knew that.

Specialist sports colleges could help tackle anti-social behaviour among teenage boys, a report suggests.

The study found boys were more likely than girls to raise their sense of self-worth through specialist sports colleges.

The research by Northumbria University found sports college pupils' confidence was significantly higher than those at a comprehensive school.

They were also more confident about their physical appearance.

Specialist schools are state schools which follow the mainstream curriculum, but have a particular emphasis and expertise in an area, such as technology, science, languages or sports.

The majority of secondary schools in England now have specialist status.

Good. In fact I would go as far as to say that this could be a major improvement in British education that has happened in the last fifteen years or so, to set beside the way that primary school education in the 3Rs etc. has recently changed from being mostly of a derangingly despicable incompetence to being patchily adequate.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:18 PM
Category: CompulsionPrimary schoolsSport
June 16, 2004
All work and all play

It seems that my blogging duties here, and here, could be clashing.

A schoolgirl tennis player will have to juggle her debut appearance at Wimbledon with her A-level exams on the same day.

Katie O'Brien, 18, is hoping organisers at the tournament – which starts on Monday – will give her a late on-court slot for her match so that she can sit her French and Maths exams in the morning.

The teenager was shocked to find out she had won a wild card entry on Friday despite losing a play-off final in London a few days earlier.

I blame Wimbledon. Getting to play despite failing the entrance exam? A clear case of declining tennis standards.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:18 PM
Category: Examinations and qualificationsSport