March is when the press refers to Big Match madness every year. Match commissioners have been sent to watch over matches by the Education Ministry. The article today refers to facets of extraordinary sportsmanship, behaviour of spectators worthy of emulation and the role of technology in consolidating the integrity of decisions by match officials. This not a piece which either targets individual acts or a particular institution nor are they life threatening utterances written by an enthusiast of sports!
When are players truly free to be Sportsmen? Could it be when players are not under pressure to win at all cost including physically taking out their opponents, a coach will not loose his or her job for not ‘producing’ winning results, parental pressure to play their sons or daughters does not influence team selection, match officials are fair in their interpretations, spectators do not invade or disturb play, heads of schools demand nothing less, alumni nurturing sports in their old school promote such practices, Captains and seniors set the example and Sportsmanship is celebrated including by the opposition.
Masters and coaches
MIC's, TIC's and Coaches should have the following qualities: teach student-athletes the importance of integrity, honesty, reliability and loyalty, place the academic, emotional, physical and moral wellbeing of athletes above desires and pressures to win, treat contest officials with respect, treat the parents of student-sportspersons with respect; do not engage in or permit profanity or obscene gestures, use positive coaching methods to make the experience enjoyable, increase self-esteem and foster a love and appreciation for the sport, respect proper teacher-student boundaries, teach positive life skills, advocate, vigorously advocate the concept of pursuing victory with honour in all communications, be a worthy role-model, maintain a sports environment that is physically and emotionally safe, put safety and health considerations above the desire to win, Honour the spirit of the rules, promote sportsmanship.
Administrators should respect the right of others to be treated with dignity, strive to improve efficiency, create an atmosphere, which encourages fair play, display a high standard of behavior, promote a positive image to all, promote and develop the game by sharing knowledge and experience.
It’s a tough job being a coach. How many can afford to employ coaches? How do coaches upgrade their skills? Do they have resources to do so? Our current Minister Dayasiri Jayasekare at a function spelt out his vision of standardizing a system which recognizes and grades coaches. Can sports survive without coaches at all levels? A coach comes under pressure very often to produce “results”. There are though examples where a Head of school would explicitly inform the coach that the priority is to help children enjoy attending practices, all are afforded an opportunity to play and enhancing skill levels is important.
The recently concluding three day and the one day thereafter between Royal and S. Thomas displayed on field camaraderie of extraordinary levels. A good performance with the bat by the opponent was acknowledged by both teams on every occasion. Both captains and players seemed free to do so. It’s my impression the respective heads subscribe to this ethos of play. Repition in years to follow will help turn it into an infectious habit.
I was told when the Thomian opener got out caught to a stroke which if it had carried the ball over the ropes for a six would have brought up his hundred, the fielder who caught him had held head no sooner he caught the ball for getting his opponent out at the one day match ! A truly remarkable act of sportsmanship which must be celebrated. This infectious habit was evidently seen off field with last year's cricket captains joining hands physically cheering their schools together with one on crutches!
The extent to which technology assists match officials it makes their tasks easier. In cricket, cameras are required to stay focused all the time on specific physical locations. It requires a rock steady platform which captures the movements of players against specific lines or at its best can show interpretation of sounds in relation to the position of the bat as the ball passes. The latter requires quite some technology and is expensive. While camera equipment is expensive one can search for options which make costs tolerable. The facility when afforded to match officials provides a quantum leap for tools in decision making and adds to the integrity of the sport. In tightly contested situations it becomes invaluable.
The very name spectator means they have no business on the field of play. Sometimes spectators become tools to either disrupt contests or of a particular individual performing well. For those on the field it’s a huge distraction and some situations they become captives of the spectators. Crowd control in sporting events is no easy task. It’s not a pure law and order matter though at times law has to be applied. It’s a fine balance of maintaining public order in privately arranged public events where at times thousands maybe in attendance! Many perform thankless functions in this grey zone.
I hope this piece sheds some light on sports at schools level and the complexities involved.