School of Sport: MINING GOLD

Swimming has now been included in the national curriculum for all Primary children and yet probably ninety-five percent of schools do not have a swimming pool.

IT is claimed that over sixty-nine countries around the world now host their own version of the ‘Got Talent’ format, whereby anyone can enter and perform any form of talent before an audience and a panel of judges with the hope of making a name for themselves and finding a platform for their talents to be seen and used.

It has no doubt produced some surprising and hugely talented people of all ages who have now gone on to great success and renown. Each of them have seen the show as an opportunity to showcase their talent and they have grabbed that opportunity with both hands as the judges grab the golden buzzer.

The fact is though that each of those who enter such shows knows they have a degree of talent; they have looked for an opportunity for it to be appreciated. That is fantastic! However, we need to ask an important question in relation to that: what about those people who have talent but do not know they have it? Like gold hidden in the ground, we all have talents that have not been unearthed.

Here in Zimbabwe, with a population of around sixteen million, we could only send four competitors to the last Olympics; many sports in Zimbabwe have few players contesting for the national teams.

All this is significant in the light of a comment that AB De Villiers, the South African cricketer, made in his autobiography whereby he recognised that success depends a huge amount on a player being given an opportunity.

Few youngsters have such. There are millions of youngsters here who do not know they have the sporting ability within them if only they had the opportunity. Why is that?

The obvious reasons why youngsters are sitting (literally) with sporting talent without knowing they have such may well be attributed to the fact there are no facilities available for youngsters to try out in their sport.

Swimming has now been included in the national curriculum for all Primary children and yet probably ninety-five percent of schools do not have a swimming pool.

Perhaps there is a world record holder left in the ground simply because there are no swimming pools; if Zimbabwe has produced the Olympian (and current Minister of Sport), Kirsty Coventry, along with the recent rising star, Donata Katai, surely there may be others lying there?

Another obvious reason is that the majority of youngsters do not have the money to participate in sport, or even to travel to such facilities that may exist. Some will claim that there is no time for youngsters to explore their talent, focusing instead on purely academic studies.

Many youngsters will not have any opportunity because there is no support, encouragement, or involvement from their parents (who in turn had perhaps missed out on finding their talent).

Some youngsters will not have an opportunity because there are no people with experience of different talents near them while others will find there are no people who attach any importance to those areas of talent near them.

Furthermore, some youngsters find there is no alternative to what they have (in most cases here, soccer while all along they may well have talent in another sport not found in that area) while others are prevented from using opportunities because they have no initiative to go looking for it.

Of course, many people have spoken on this matter. We say that ‘Opportunity knocks’ and when it does, then we must open the door; the Apostle Paul urged people to “make the most of every opportunity” but Milton Berle goes further and declares that “If opportunity does not knock, build a door”.

We could have an alternative approach to that; instead of waiting for an opportunity to knock we should open the door and go knocking on the opportunity’s door. George Bernard Shaw advises us “Don’t wait for the right opportunity: create it” while similarly, Francis Bacon opined that “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” H Jackson Brown Jnr put it more poetically by saying that “Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor”.

Many adults take up a sport later in life and discover their talent too late. An anonymous writer has claimed that “Opportunity is everywhere. The key is to develop the vision to see it.” That is not enough though. We need to do something with that vision. We must help every youngster to dig, explore, try by all means to find what talent they have wherever it may be. The gold in the ground may well lead to a golden buzzer and gold round the neck.

  • Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Association of Trust Schools Email: [email protected]

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