At St Michael’s, we always makes sure that when it comes to sport, our children are provided with a holistic and rewarding experience. Apart from developing their physical literacy, we feel it is imperative to develop their individual social, spiritual and moral education. We believe that sport needs to be more than just mettle and determination.
Sport illuminates performance virtues, like resilience, grit and stamina better that most activities. Think of Mohammed Ali beating George Foreman against all odds or a football team, short of 3 players, going on to score and win against the reigning world champions. There are no shortage of historical sporting heroes who have demonstrated courage, nerve and resolve, but nowhere near enough who have demonstrated empathy, integrity and compassion.
Although we want to produce great sportsmen and women who have resilience and determination, St Micheal’s places the greatest emphasis upon the traditional values of care, consideration and courtesy. We believe that without the ability to make good ethical choices, our children would be at a disadvantage in this world. And in school sports especially, we have the perfect opportunity and responsibility to cultivate balanced children through character education.
So what more can we do to ensure that we are providing character education, as teachers and parents?
Firstly, we can be more aware of what we communicate to our youngsters. Granted, in sporting activities praising drive and effort is necessary, but it’s important to acknowledge the softer virtues too, such as integrity and fairness. If we don’t, then we are unconsciously reinforcing the idea that only performance matters. In essence, we need to instil good old fashioned sportsmanship.
Secondly, we need to be very clear about what these softer virtues “look” like. We can do this by piggy-backing on different subject areas, namely, Physical Education, English and History. PE is inherently based on performance but it can be used as a platform to identity sports and sportspeople who have demonstrated great civility and not only great physical ability. History and English lessons could focus on how a deficit of moral virtues, may have contributed to the downfall of a famous leader’s political career or the popularity and reputation of a character in a novel.
Finally, it is important who we choose as our role models and who we use as examples of those deserving of our admiration. Let’s make sure that the sportspeople and leaders in their industries that we aspire to be, model integrity, civility and citizenship and are not only admired for their sporting or performance ability. Let’s use examples that include those football players who risked scoring a goal to stop and help another player, or a long distant runner who ran alongside their opponent to motivate them to finish the race.
Some truly great individuals to remember are Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, but there are many more that we can identify and explore with our children. We simply need to shift our focus more towards character and behaviour, and not solely on trophies and medals. As the saying goes, “not all heroes wear a cape”.