Let’s make fair play the legacy of our Olympics

Pupils of East Wittering Primary School practise Sportsmanship First techniques. C091314-1
Pupils of East Wittering Primary School practise Sportsmanship First techniques. C091314-1

We’ve all seen those angry exchanges between football managers and players brawling on the pitch.

For fencing instructor Stephen Crossley, it is ugly and unnecessary behaviour.

He would like to see it eradicated from sport because, he says, the way you act in sport can have a profound effect on the way you conduct yourself at home, at work, with friends and people generally.

Two years ago he started to take his message to schools across the area under the banner of Sportsmanship First and is now trying to get the government’s schools and sports ministers on board to make it a national scheme.

He believes it could be our Olympic legacy and would be simpler and far cheaper than the multi-million pound buildings most people will never get to see.

Stephen never met the person who inspired the idea for Sportsmanship First, but his actions will always stay with him, as he explains.

“I always remember I was taking part in the coastal marathon in Exmoor and the winner of the race turned back round and started clapping everyone and running back up the track encouraging everyone, then the person who came second place and third and fourth all did it too.

“Instead of going home, he decided to stay and I just remember how infectious it was.”

Stephen was already starting to include sportsmanship in his fencing classes, but was spurred on after seeing football player John Terry spit live on air just before he was about to be interviewed and experiencing bad sportsmanship during a football match.

“The issues became very clear to me and inspired me that ‘right, I really want to do something about this and help make a difference’,” he explains.

The aim of the scheme is to start right at the grass roots level by taking schoolchildren through a series of workshops.

An on-the-spot race is used as a means of getting children to think about the nature of doing your best, winning and losing.

Afterwards the losers are interviewed ‘television-style’ about their feelings, which usually brings out some very honest and thought provoking answers.

“I say there are three things you can do: eat well, sleep well and practise, and if you do those three things at least you are doing your best,” explains Stephen.

Children look at how encouraging others can have a big impact on people beyond the sports field and Stephen explores the ‘dark side’: the role of spectators and how badly-behaved crowds can affect sport.

Several schools in the area have taken up the programme, and so far Stephen has received very positive feedback from schools and parents.

In November he will host a workshop day which will also be attended by some top ranking sports officials.

To further promote the ideals of SF he is working on a British Village Games event.

Stephen’s eventual aim is to bring all sporting federations together to work on teaching sportsmanship, but he is not hoping for miracles, he knows it will take a long time to really embed itself in people’s minds.

He says that when it happens, the sportsmanship which the children display is ‘magic’ and describes it as the most rewarding thing he has ever done.

Anyone who would like more information can visit the {http:// www.sportsmanshipfirst.org|Sportsmanship First website|Sportsmanship}.