Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Death of the Great British Amateur.

Bridgnorth Corinthians circa 2010
If there is one thing I’m good at, it’s not being very good at things. Now some people might think that not being good at things is easy, not so. It takes dedication to be not very good at things.
There used to be a time, long before I can remember when, whilst you may not have been applauded for actually being bad, it didn’t really matter, it was the taking part that counted. Now I’m not going to argue that people shouldn’t try and be good at the things they do, of course they should. But if they try and fail, so what?
For example football (and for my American readers, I mean the associated variety). I have strong views about the dominance of football in British sport, but this isn’t the time or place. I will actively avoid watching the game, on telly or live, and have little respect for the overpaid, under-worked, feckless professionals who seemingly fail to see how lucky they are to be paid for kicking a ball around a field.

No, I won’t go on about the whining, reprobates, who fill our newspapers and gossip columns with the puerile antics of their wasted lives. This blog is about amateurs and given the chance to kick a ball around a sports hall with nine other chaps I’m as happy as the next man. I’m not very good at it mind, but then that is the point of this rant: it doesn’t matter.
With a vague sense that it is good for one’s health to get out of breath every now and again I co-formed the Bridgnorth Corinthians a few years ago. In four years we have failed to finish above any team that hasn’t dropped out. (This year, the fifth season, with me out from injury the Corinthians look to finish second from bottom.) I do actually hold an impressive shot-to-goal ratio of 100%, over four seasons I had a total of one shot. But then that doesn’t count own goals (6 to date).

I never worried, I enjoyed playing and that to me was the point. But then when filling in the match sheet after one game one of the other teams asked: ‘Why’d you bother, you’re never gonna win the league?’ What a sad state of affairs, I thought. Why would we drop out just because we loose? Is the only reason you play to win? Of course when you’re on the pitch you push yourself to do well, you put everything in. But if at the end of the day you finish having lost, is that so bad?
What do you actually achieve by winning a five-a-side league? A shiny cup, but does that mean so much to you? If the primary, nay the only, reason for taking part in an activity is to receive affirmation that you are better than everyone else, I think you have problems my friend. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to win the league, who knows maybe one day we will (though I doubt it), but it is much more important to me to do something I enjoy, as well as I can.

Sadly, I think I am in a minority. There used to be an ethos of amateurism in Britain, a realisation that it was the taking part that counts. You might not win a shiny medal, but you will learn new skills, meet different people and become a more rounded human being. If you only ever do things you’re good at already, how are you ever going to learn new skills?
100 years ago there were regular matches in all sports that pitted Gentlemen vs Players. IE, people who were good at the game vs people who liked it, professional vs amateur. Most people then would have participated in a sport, as well as watched it. Why has that changed?

So if you’re reading this (and I suspect you are) join a team, start an evening class, what ever get out there and do something    

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