Tens of thousands of children returning to school from their Easter break this week will receive new lessons on how to be good sports.
The drive to teach youngsters fair play comes as new research suggests that children’s enjoyment of sport is in danger of being spoiled by poor behaviour on the playing field.
To help combat this at grassroots level, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) - guardian of the Laws and Spirit of Cricket - and the Cricket Foundation charity have teamed up for a nationwide scheme to encourage fair play.
From today (Tuesday 21 April), thousands of children aged eight to 14 in 3,000 primary and secondary state schools involved in the Chance to shine programme will receive a two hour “MCC Spirit of Cricket” session during the summer term. Chance to shine is the Cricket Foundation’s initiative to bring the educational benefits of competitive cricket back to a third of state schools by 2015.
In a survey, commissioned by MCC and the Cricket Foundation, more than half of children (52%) aged eight to 16 say they see unfair play regularly in games. Sledging, elbowing, tripping, hair-pulling, feigning injury and arguing with the umpire were among many examples of unfair play given by youngsters polled.
Children’s attitudes to fair play change when they enter their teenage years, according to the survey, with the minority (48%) of eight to 11 year olds saying they regularly witness unfair play compared to the majority (55%) of 12 to 16 year olds. And females are indeed ‘the fairer sex’: less than a fifth of girls (18%) would consider doing something unfair to win, compared to a third of boys (31%).
MCC’s Spirit of Cricket campaign encourages children to play hard, play fair and have fun. John Stephenson, Head of Cricket at MCC said: “MCC strongly believes that competition is good for children and that sport should be played to win. However, it’s equally important to have respect for all those involved in the game, be it the captain, the officials, the opposition or your own team.
"We hope that our partnership in Chance to shine schools will encourage children to try to win but to win fairly, and – successful or not – shake the opponent’s hand after the match.”
Wasim Khan, Director of Operations and Development, the Cricket Foundation said: “Chance to shine uses cricket to teach key life skills and values like how to win and how to lose honourably. The new partnership with MCC will reinforce in schools the message of playing sport in the right spirit. We hope it will help to develop the next generation of good sports.”
Other highlights of the MCC/Cricket Foundation survey:
- Liverpool is the place where children see unfair play most often in a game (65%), Plymouth the least often (43%)
- Southampton is the ‘bad loser’ capital at grassroots level – only 30% of children are good losers, according to parents.
- Cardiff has the best young sports (61%).
- ‘Competitive dad syndrome’: less than 3% of children say that when they take part in sport winning was the most important thing for their mums. However six times as many (18%) said it was the most important thing for their dads. Nottingham has the most competitive dads (25%), five times as many as Brighton (5%).
- Over half of parents (54%) think it is their responsibility to teach their children good sporting behaviour. One in four of parents said PE teachers have the greatest responsibility.
- Footballer Paulo Di Canio’s sporting behaviour in the West Ham v Everton match in 2000 is voted greatest sportsmanship moment. (see Top Five Greatest Sportsmanship Moments below)
England cricketing hero Andrew Flintoff encapsulated the Spirit of Cricket in the 2005 Ashes when he consoled the Australian player Brett Lee after England had just won a thriller at Edgbaston. Flintoff today backed the MCC Spirit of Cricket campaign in Chance to shine schools, saying: “It’s massively important as a sportsman to play hard, play fair, respect your opponent and respect yourself.”
Speaking at the launch of the new initiative, Flintoff describes this memorable sporting moment as “something which came out of the blue”.
“He (Lee) played so well in that Test. We tried to bowl him out, we tried to knock him out. We tried everything, but he wouldn’t budge. So after it happened I went over, put my arm around him. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was some words of consolation…probably the reason why I did it is he did not deserve to be on the losing team…and obviously I have great respect for him.”
Further information on the MCC/Cricket Foundation partnership, including details of an MCC Spirit of Cricket DVD for schools, is available on the Lord’s website: www.lords.org/soc For details on Chance to shine visit chancetoshine.org