When You Get the “W” Does Anyone Ask How?

school sports

Ah, the world of sports – where winning is the name of the game and the purpose, right? Well, sort of. Winning comes in different flavours, like choosing between a weak mug of instant decaf or a double shot espresso. Coffee yes,but only one of them gives you that jolt you needed.

Some winning is just better than others.

Let’s dive in 👇

And we don’t have to look too far to see that at play in the highest level of sports. Go back a few of decades to the Cold War when spy movies were all the rage and the superpowers engaged in a high-stakes game of “Who’s Got the Bigger Boom.”

During the Cold War, Soviet bloc athletes won often. They won gold medals at the Olympics with ease. Basketball, wrestling, boxing, athletics you name it they won big. But how? For the most part they were unsmiling and efficient. Think Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

Those athletes were the product of an organisation that valued winning and that’s what they did all the time. They left nothing to chance. Winning was the sole objective.

That attitude to winning however was so different to the Brazilian football teams, who also dominated their sport winning the World Cup more than any other nation. Yet when they win, they are doing it with a smile on their faces, playing magnificent football featuring astonishing skill. If the purpose is to win, then neither style is better than the other.

But let’s be real here – which victory truly resonates with you on a deeper level? The stoic, unyielding strength of chiselled granite, or the radiant, infectious joy of the smiling Brazilian? Instinctively most are drawn to victories laced with style.

It’s almost like there’s an invisible panel of judges dishing out style points, giving us that extra boost of satisfaction. Think back to the arrogance of Welsh rugby and West Indian cricket teams in the Seventies, or Australia’s dominance in the Noughties, scoring runs at a blistering pace. But what’s next after winning? It’s the undeniable allure of winning with flair – attacking, taking risks, and playing the beautiful game that leaves the crowd cheering and grinning from ear to ear.

If winning is Grade A, there is still an A+ up for grabs. Something beyond mere victory. But is it worth risking the first to get the second? Sometimes not and hence the phrase ‘winning ugly’.

Take New Zealand’s journey to victory in the 2011 Rugby World Cup: in the lead-up, they showcased some of the most breathtaking rugby the world had ever seen, pushing boundaries, and redefining the game’s possibilities. However, on the big day, they opted for a more conservative approach, focusing solely on clinching the win. Maybe, in the end, winning is indeed the ultimate goal. After all, when your name is etched on the Cup nobody questions the how.

In many school sports, the odds of winning often favour a cautious approach. It’s all about playing it safe – booting the ball down the field, or employing what some might call “Industrial Hockey.” The strategy? Secure territory, capitalise on opponents’ mistakes, and maintain relentless pressure. It’s a playbook that prioritises results over flair, a method that would likely dominate in an Under 15 World Cup scenario. Pass the ball over to the early bloomer under strict instructions not to pass. But is this truly how we want children to learn and experience sports?

Risk free play is the bane of sport. It’s like trying to justify eating plain rice for every meal because it’s efficient – sure, it’ll keep you going, but where’s the flavour?

When school sports prioritise avoiding mistakes over unleashing creativity, it’s as if they’ve traded in their playbook for a spreadsheet. And while “winning ugly” might score points in elite leagues, in school sports, we know better.

No clearer was the difference between an adult conservative approach and a schoolboys sheer flair and creativity on display a fortnight ago when playing in the championship match DHS needed just 1 run off 6 balls to win. The veteran commentator suggested “drop and run” and secure the win. Logical but dull. The DHS batter, striving to create something beautiful decided to make a memory that will live on for decades, moving across his stumps and hammering a six to win in style! It was more than just a win. It was an A+ victory!


And here is that moment…

school sports

No school athlete has ever proposed to make the game boring just to improve their chances of winning. This mindset is a construct of adults, misapplied and serves as a compelling argument against hosting a school’s World Cup.

Instead, let’s empower the players. Embrace mistakes as part of the learning process. Foster creativity, even if it means a higher error count. Let’s not just aim to win but to win beautifully. Be willing to take risks and potentially lose in pursuit of a stylish victory and ensure that players understand the criteria for success.

Above all, let’s celebrate those magical moments on the field. If we can’t cultivate this approach in school sports, where else can it thrive?

Of course, this winning style comes with those T’s & C’s that are read at breakneck speed. There is a difference between well-judged risk taking and reckless foolhardiness. But sometimes the line is blurred. Teach the difference. That requires diligent coaching, and sometimes it will fail. But there is no exam where the pass mark is 100%

Until we get a win bonus point at Under 14, why would we settle for anything else?