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Category archive: Sport

Tuesday July 15 2008

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan batsman and wicketkeeper, writes about why Sri Lanka has produced so many highly effective, yet highly individual cricketers:

Over the last few years Sri Lanka have had quite a few self-styled unorthodox cricketers coming through - Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Romesh Kaluwitharana, and now Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis. It’s wonderful to have this newness, this difference, because it opens up everyone’s eyes, including fellow cricketers who might get something new from these guys to improve their game overall.

One of the reasons for so many unorthodox cricketers coming through in Sri Lanka could be, as in other parts of the subcontinent, the way kids learn to play cricket: they learn by watching, and then start playing in backyards or streets or wherever they can find space. It’s possibly there that they develop these individual styles. Unless they have access to formal coaching, they tend to develop along their own lines, especially if they come late to proper leather-ball cricket.

He talks in particular about Muralitharan, who is about to become the most prolific taker of wickets in the entire history of test match cricket, albeit with a highly unusual (some say illegal) action:

In some instances, if they are discovered at a very young age, there arises a problem when coaches start trying to make them conform to orthodoxy. All the above mentioned cricketers, with the exception of Murali, were discovered quite late. Murali had the luxury of having an open-minded, liberal, forward-thinking coach in Sunil Fernando, who let him develop along his own lines and just tidied up what needed to be tidied up without changing what made him unique.

All of this reminds me very much of the difference between how classical and rock musicians get their start.  The classicals get coached and coached, the rocksters just copy and play, in the musical equivalent of the backyard or the street, i.e. the upstairs bedroom or the garage.

Rock and rollers thrive on novelty, on being different from the pack, and this kind of start ensures that they are indeed highly individual.  But cricketers also do well by being different.  Much of Murali’s success has happened because batsmen have never faced anything quite like him before, and can’t practice against anyone else who is similar, because no-one is.

Wednesday July 09 2008

Nothing much to say here today.  I’d show you my sick note, if I had one.  So anyway, here are all the schools the cabinet went to, apart from one of them for some reason.  He also did Guardian journos, but that’s harder to find (here), so here it is:

Editor Alan Rusbridger (Cranleigh); political editor Patrick Wintour (Westminster); leader writer Madeleine Bunting (Queen Mary’s, Yorkshire); policy editor Jonathan Freedland (University College School); columnist Polly Toynbee (Badminton), sent the kids to Westminster; executive editor Ian Katz (University College School); security affairs editor Richard Norton Taylor (King’s School, Canterbury); arts editor-in-chief Clare Margetson (Marlborough College); literary editor Clare Armitstead (Bedales); public services editor David Brindle (Bablake); city editor Julia Finch (King’s High, Warwick).; environment editor John Vidal (St Bees); fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley (City of London School for Girls); G3 editor Janine Gibson (Walthamstow Hall); northern editor Martin Wainwright (Shrewsbury); and industrial editor David Gow (St Peter’s, York), Seumas Milne (Winchester College), the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley - Rugby School and Cambridge University, columnist Zoe Williams (Godolphin and Latymer).

Ah yes, I needn’t have bothered.  I could have just said it was originally from here.  the Guardian kept deleting it, so Guido’s informant said, back in May.  I see that their arts editor-in-chief went to my old school, which didn’t do girls when I went there.  Shame.  I’d have liked that.

I remember a Winchester Milne.  A relative, perhaps?  Used to play against Marlborough at rackets.  Rather well.  Hell of a good game, that.

Saturday July 05 2008

Last night I chanced upon a really interesting BBC4 TV documentary, fronted by Huw Edwards, on the subject of Sunday Schools. 

This blog liked it too:

It’s not just learning the words to Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, says Huw Edwards. Early pioneers rocked the boat by teaching poorer children to read, and football clubs like Everton owe their existence to the religious classes.

Mention Sunday school today and many will think of an institution that feels fusty, cosy and quaint. Some might even feel outright hostility. But others remember kindness, rich storytelling and singing - happy memories of some of the best moments of childhood.

This remarkable movement, founded in 1774 with the first class held in a house in Gloucester, has had a deeply radical effect on British society. In the early days, it was seen as dangerous and subversive to give the tools of literacy to the lower orders. In Victorian times, Sunday schools helped shape future MPs, women teachers and a large number of the current Premiership football clubs.  And well into the 20th Century, Sunday school students parading at Whitsun could turn out in their thousands, bringing city centres to a standstill.

I daresay not all pupils will remember Sunday School quite as fondly as the talking heads reminiscing in this show all did.  But a convincing case was made that Sunday Schools, in their time, made quite an impact on the life of the nation, most of it beneficial.  The sheer kindness of these places came over very strongly, which meant a great deal to children who, especially in the early days of Sunday Schools, were typically working for pay and not much of it, for the other six days of the week.

For another response, go here.

UPDATE: It’s being shown again Sunday night (July 6) at 8pm.

Monday June 23 2008

Here is further illustration of something I have always believed, that David Beckham is a smart guy.  Martin Samuel writes in The Times:

David Beckham, asked by The Times to sum up the strength of Fabio Capello, the England manager, came up with the perfect, pithy phrase. “He makes you sit up straight in class,” he said. For tutors, however, instilling discipline is only half of it. The pupils must wish to learn as well.

Education is a partnership. First, the teacher must be motivated to do the job properly. Sven-Göran Eriksson became lazy as head coach and England stagnated as a result. Steve McClaren wanted to coach new ideas, but lacked the authority to make his players listen. Neither of these flaws will affect Capello’s regime; but it is the second part of the equation that is the key. The teachers must teach, but the pupils must listen; and this is where English football has fallen down.

So there.

I have been busy elsewhere, also concerning sport, so that’s your lot here for today.

Thursday May 08 2008

Earlier this evening I was watching a movie called I Want Candy, which is about a couple of aspiring movie makers who get their start by making a porno movie.  In it there was a scene where a lecturer was lecturing a quite large room full of aspiring movie makers, and I was trying to work out just what was so very, very depressing about it.  It absolutely wasn’t merely the teacher, even though he was indeed very depressingly and very well enacted, by McKenzie Crook.

Then I got it.  Teaching a large number of people how to do a job which only a tiny number of people ever get to actually do for real is an inherently absurd activity.  It just doesn’t make sense.  By far the more intelligent strategy for the teacher, if he actually wants to accomplish anything beyond collecting his pay check in exchange for damn all, is for him to start not by doing much in the way of actual teaching, but instead by searching through all the students in the room, and picking out the one or two who look like they are the least unlikely ones to actually make it to being real movie makers, and concentrate all his efforts on making these few even better.

The usual explanations given for why some things are taught in huge assemblages of students, while other things are taught by teachers on a one-to-one basis are that the nature of the skill requires this, or the student is paying for special attention, or the pupil gets special attention by threatening to wreck the classroom otherwise (whcih amounts to the same idea).  But I think another reason is that teaching someone to get ahead in a fiercely competitive trade or profession just doesn’t make sense any way except one-on-on, very intensely.

The best concert violin students have individual teachers.  The best aspiring athletes have individual coaches.  It’s not the nature of the skill that demands this.  It is the ruthlessly competitive nature of the field that the pupils aspire to enter.  The best violin teachers don’t teach vast throngs of violinists.  They teach a very select few, and lavish tremendously detailed attention on these few.

If someone is teaching a highly competitive trade to a large throng, the chances are that neither he nor his pupils are very good.  If the teacher was any good, he’d pick a few potential winners.  If a pupil was any good, he’d find a better teacher.

If there was a large demand for people who could play the violin really, really well, on a scale approaching the demand for people who are merely literate and numerate, then violin playing would be taught in large classes, just like literacy and numeracy.

In the past, when the demand for literacy and numeracy was not nearly so great, these things were also taught one-to-one.

This has been a thinking-aloud posting, and it may not be right.

Wednesday May 07 2008

Here.  But it’s not very good and not very long.  The accompanying text is a long more informative.

For more than 35 years a horse riding school has been helping to improve the lives of children with disabilities.

Based at Barnards Farm in Debden Green, the Saffron Walden and District Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) gives children the chance to learn new skills and have fun.

Chairman Helen Kent said: “The club provides so many benefits to the children who come here. They all have a great time, but also learning to ride really boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Many would not have the opportunity to try horse riding if it wasn’t for the club.”

It’s a charity, dependent upon donations and sponsorship, not state funding.  The usual complaint about a totally non-state education system is that the difficult children would fall completely through the net, or rather the non-net.  Well, these children are pretty “difficult”, but something is being done for them.

Tuesday April 08 2008

Ah, the USA!  How can I ignore it?  This time it’s robots playing basketball.  Talk about the revenge of the nerds.  Geeks making their own mechanical jocks!  Sixty two teams.  Two from the UK! Thank you Instapundit.

Sunday April 06 2008

Yes, says the local paper:

Cricket, which its fans say is the world’s second most popular sport, is played by millions of people around the globe. But it is pursued seriously by probably fewer than 1,000 people in New York City, where the game is played in relative obscurity, its matches confined to the corners of the city.

Yet New York has long been among the centers of cricketing in the nation, holding the national championships as recently as 2006.

On Wednesday, the Department of Education inaugurated cricket as its newest league sport, with about 600 high school students playing on 14 teams during a 12-game season. The first matches, held in Queens, featured teams fro John Adams, Richmond Hill, Aviation and Newcomers High Schools.


The Department of Education said New York is the only public school system in the nation to offer competitive cricket.

That’s not so amazing.  I’m guessing it’s all those Indians, and West Indians, and Pakistanis, especially the Indians.  New York, city of immigrants, and immigrant games.

But, the New York Times article says that cricket never caught on in the USA.  No so.

New York schools play cricket
Why no transfer fees?
Ed Smith on the tragedy and triumph of Billy Beane
Smart Boy looks up Don Bradman on the internet
To play for her new school she has to get permission from her old school
Clive Woodward makes the most of Jim Greenwood and of Loughborough University
Education through rugby
Dave MacLeod loves climbing but hated school
Clive Woodward learns to play by their rules
The business of Indian higher education