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On Sport and the Bright Days ahead! Mark Pinchin HT Ambassador Youth Sport Trust

posted 5 Nov 2016, 14:21 by Mark Pinchin   [ updated 8 Nov 2016, 23:46 ]

As a Headteacher Ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust I take sport extremely seriously and carefully consider the benefits for young people.

My own experiences will match those of many from my generation where the quality of sports teaching in schools could be abysmal at best and indescribably bad at worst. Our school was not dissimilar to the film Kes where no skills were taught but the PE teacher played by Brian Glover lived out his dreams while bullying the children in his care. The only difference with our PE teacher was that instead of sporting a Man United football 'rig' he instead chose a quilted warm tracksuit with a hotwater bottle stuffed down the front with.. 'Great day for a bit of rugger lads' and put on his warm gloves and adjusted his scarf as we shivered in the mud and the cold.

Character Building? Maybe for some of us while it destroyed other more sensitive children as they ran the gauntlet of the showers with our teacher delighting in turning the huge chrome temperature tap from boiling hot to freezing cold...' and in you go again lads....make men of you yet!’

Neither was it character building for the thalidomide children in my year group who in every selection where children chose the teams they were left in a miserable huddle as the oafs that postured as teaching staff presided over this grotesque and horrifying spectacle. How I despised these staff as they strutted in their Cheetah Sports gear while talented children - which is all children if they could have been bothered to stop looking at their reflections in our gym windows and find the right sport for the children in their care - gave up.

How times have changed. The greatest moments in my life have been working with disabled students in sport with wheelchair rugby and the like. While Headteacher of a large school in Exeter I facilitated this with our special unit for children with profound difficulties and rejoiced at the joy sport gave these worthy and courageous children.


For myself I was OK. I scored a goal on my first day at Primary School, threw the javelin and discus and hammer at secondary and once released from 'school sport' as it was called played rugby at a good level for my local town in Suffolk and boxed. I do not relay this to my good friend Ross Minter (who runs the Queensbury League) lest he find the amusement all too much... but I was quite good and only in my last fight in North London in the 1980's was I sent reeling to the canvas by a searing left hook delivered by an East End milkman called Eddie Ostwald ! As I lay there, my brains temporarily scrambled I can remember blinking owlishly upwards at an array of large fingers as I was counted out. The famous Pinchin shuffle had failed to weave its magic! Afterwards it was arms around each other and that word which permeates all aspects of the sport: Respect. I have never lost my love of the sport and by six years old my son knew all the greats..Hagler, Hearns, Duran, Minter, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali and Smokin' Joe ! and I still work out at Keddles Gym.....what might have been! Boulevard of broken dreams!

In later years I discovered the joy of running...and ran and ran and ran with the Exmouth Harriers until one fateful day my Achilles tendon snapped on a coastal run in East Devon. And that was it. It is two years since the operations and I have just started running again. For me sport has given me a sense of purpose, wellbeing, and just the joy of feeling good and fit. Clears the mind, gets the blood racing, the heart pumping and the eyes popping!

Now of course everything has changed. Educational reforms have removed the stereotypical PE teachers of yesteryear..not that all were bad..some were excellent but it was fertile ground for staff bullies and in their place in most schools such as our own we have incredible and amazing and simply brilliant staff who care about developing the skills of every child and their love of healthy lifestyles and fitness.

I marvel each week at the time they devote to clubs and extracurricular activities and competitions. The Youth Sport Trust and similar organisations do a magnificent job and inspiring speakers travel schools motivating and encouraging pupils. Craig Heap and Darren Campbell delight and I am hoping that Ross Minter pictured will visit shortly to describe his own journey to the top, The only visitor we ever got at my school was my PE teacher's mum bringing him a flask of cocoa at half time when numbed with cold, boredom and indifference we dreamed of the final whistle, and having survived the gauntlet of the showers we all raced to the kind benevolent gaze of our beloved science teacher Mr Onions or our much loved Music teacher Mrs Cleary....or best of all our wonderful tutor Mr Spencer with his Benson and Hedges cigarettes with 3 gold bands which we bought him each Christmas!

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that sport enriches children's lives and gives them so much. Self belief, team spirit, cooperation with others, dealing with success and dealing with failure. Resilience, strength, fortitude, tenacity, perseverence, care, support, modesty, empathy and so many other qualities which are crucial in the world of today. It impacts on achievement across the whole curriculum.

A love of sport also gets young people off mobile phones, social media, computers, computer games and gaming sites which can be so harmful and destructive and replace them with life in the real world where they take responsibility and develop themselves in so many ways as they interact with others, follow their passions and take responsibility to shape their life and make their life an adventure!

Looking back at Roosevelt's famous quotation we need to support children to give things a go......throw caution to the wind, be bold and courageous ! To paraphrase...
It is not the critic who counts...but the person who dares to try..........


Above all sport is about young people feeling good about themselves. On 29th October I attended 'Face Off' a fantastic evening of boxing organised by Ross Minter and his Queensbury Boxing league. The atmosphere was electrifying. The great Buddae Johnson commentator was in full flow in immaculately cut suit, the music was pumping, Ross was ensuring everything was running smoothly and in the ring - the theatre of dreams - hundreds of hours of training and dedication were demonstrated to shattering effect.

And for me the fight of the night on any night anywhere was the contest between two very young men Luke the' Pocket Rocket' Pearson from Redhill ( from the outstanding 'LiketoBox' Gym, Merstham) and his opponent Bad Boy 'Buster' Stevens. The skill and speed was breathtaking, dancing, moving, weaving, ducking and diving, feinting. Intensely moving to those of us watching they gave it their all with verve and skill and immense courage. Absolutely compelling. Stevens heroically battled on with a bad nosebleed, wiping the blood away with his glove as he demonstrated awesome skill. Both young men exhibited tremendous guts and sheer courage. And at the end, the crowd roaring their approval the two men embraced as local man Luke Pearson took the palm and won the contest!

>When asked how he felt Luke needed only seven words:

"I feel on top of the world!”

The applause was tumultuous.

And then..........

Everything was drowned out by the cheers for his gallant opponent as they both left the ring. The noise was simply deafening and every emotion was summed up for both young men in one word: 'Respect'.


Mark Pinchin
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tjohnson@bexleyheathacademy.org,
5 Nov 2016, 14:21
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tjohnson@bexleyheathacademy.org,
5 Nov 2016, 14:21
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tjohnson@bexleyheathacademy.org,
5 Nov 2016, 14:21
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tjohnson@bexleyheathacademy.org,
5 Nov 2016, 14:21
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tjohnson@bexleyheathacademy.org,
5 Nov 2016, 14:21
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tjohnson@bexleyheathacademy.org,
5 Nov 2016, 14:21
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