Win... But never at all costs

For a moment I felt like a Sun Journalist, waking up on a post-General Election May morning in 1992, celebrating the power of the written word to bring about a political outcome as unexpected as that achieved by David Cameron last month...

The Sun Front Page

Could it be that Sepp Blatter's shock resignation last Thursday triggered by the similarly seismic power of the weekly Park House Blog...?

Sepp Blatter resigns


It Was The Pun What Won It...!

And then I snapped out of it.

George Orwell once famously wrote that:

'Sport is war minus shooting.'

And the world of competitive sport has certainly over the last week provided further opportunities to reflect on the key difference between pushing to, rather than beyond, reasonable limits in a desire to win. It's such a fine line between the aspirational and the unsavoury; the laudable and the lamentable.

Bill Shankley

Liverpool's FC iconic Manager from the 1960s and early 70s, Bill Shankley, remarked that:

'Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.'

And, on another occasion:

'If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing.'

Vince Lombardi

An uncompromising view of achievement shared by the equally legendary American Football coach, Vince Lombardi, who led The Green Bay Packers to unprecedented Super Bowl success in the Sixties...

"Winning isn't every thing, it's the only thing.... Show me a good loser, and I'll still show you a loser'.

When does this will to win, the desire to be the best that you can be become so all-consuming that it blurs a line, distorting all that we otherwise associate with the concept of 'sportsmanship'?

This week it's been the turn Alberto Salazar, coach to Mo Farah, whose methods - and morality - have come under the sternest scrutiny following the Panorama documentary 'Catch Me If You Can'.


As an athlete Salazar certainly knew no limits. During his career he was twice administered the last rites after officials thought he had literally killed himself in his last ditch efforts to win races in excessive heat! He looks half dead here after is famous 'Duel in the Sun' at the 1982 Boston Marathon...

Alberto Salazar

We can only trust and hope that he has not incited others to inflict such damage on Galen Rupp and Mo Farah themselves in his role as coach and mentor.

Galen Rupp Alberto Salazar and Mo Farah

Within this spectrum of sporting spirit, I must admit to be something Corinthian at heart.


One of my favourite observations in this respect is that of Sir Roger Bannister who, reflecting on his era-defining achievement of running the first Four-Minute Mile, said that it almost felt like 'cheating' to go training every day. So he didn't. Never mind that he was also combining competition with his medical studies at Oxford, going on to become one of the world's leading neurologists!

Roger Bannister

A healthy balance. A sense of perspective.

In a week where this seems to have been lost, it was therefore also equally refreshing to read Head of The English Institute of Sport and former dual rugby and athletics international Nigel Walker's thoughts on sporting values and integrity...


Balance and a sense of perspective, together with the notion of sport offering a relief from the stresses of the exam season, were very much the underlying themes of my contribution to the article that appeared in The Guardian last Thursday...


I therefore felt that it was with a certain sense of irony that Mo's 'no show' at the Birmingham athletics Grand Prix on Sunday was explained in terms of his 'physical and emotional exhaustion'.

Perhaps he should take some advice form our Year 11 and Sixth Form students based their experience over the last few weeks... We certainly hope that we have coached them to show the resilience needed to successfully complete their 'exams marathon'... All I do know for certain is that they will perform with integrity and to the very best of their best of their ability, based on values developed through a challenging but supportive culture of aspiration and care for all within our learning community.

So its also with a sense of irony that I'm going to end this week with a self-congratulatory and indulgent burst of Abba, last used  in my Blog of almost exactly a year ago. You know what's coming...