Rupert Murdock once said ‘the world is changing fast, big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.’ In sport I suppose he has a point. Others have embraced his thoughts through the modernisation of sport. T20 cricket and the International Premier Tennis League are two recent examples of this, of speeding up the game. The thought behind it? Quicker games are more exciting. It will increase TV viewers and potentially bring more people into watching and playing the game. In the modern world we no longer have the time to play or watch a full game of tennis or cricket. These thoughts were recently shared by Rory McIlroy. In a bid to increase golf’s dwindling numbers (although a recent BBC News article suggests they’ve increased) he suggested a change of format for grass roots golf. ‘Everything’s so instant now and everyone doesn’t have as much time as they used to, so you maybe try some way of speeding the game up.” He does have a good point. It would make it much more accessible to families, especially if ‘quicker’ golf was also cheaper.
However this need for speed, for quick success and instant gratification now seeps into all area of life, including education. ‘Rapid and sustained progress’ and ‘fun and engaging lessons’ have been phrases that have seemed to have plagued my teaching for a while. In physical education, making lessons fun, is hugely important. Without it you are going to put children off physical activity. It’s meaning has been warped though, that any attempt to try to teach anything meaningful, difficult or requiring real determination and focus is discouraged. Boredom thresholds are dropping, better hurry things up, keep them interested. Added to this, asking children to make ‘rapid progress’, only puts them under pressure, when instant outcomes may be beyond their physical and technical development at that time or even with years of practice. I’m not advocating a drop in standards or expectations, but for being realistic. This push for progress and desire for instant success can lead to issues. In physical education it can lead to a lifetime of sedentary behaviour.
We have lost patience with ourselves. In the modern world where everything can be bought at the push of button, getting a date requires a simple swipe to the right and that fame and success can be achieved for no apparent reason, is it any wonder that people can’t wait? Sports then are moving with the times. They have to compete to hold our attention, which is decreasing rapidly. It has to be exciting and entertaining immediately. I understand that as a ‘consumer’ of sport I now have a great deal of choice on what I watch and what I participate in. There is some money to be made from me. However I think this misses one of the fundamental reasons for being involved in sport as part of a lifetime of activity. Sport is a narrative, of both thoughts and emotions. We play and watch to follow that narrative. If played at a relentless pace, there is no rhythm. The in built pauses within a game allow us time to reflect and contemplate about the narrative and whether we can change it (or not if we are watching a team we care about). Without slowing things down we end up only caring about winning or losing. There is no time to admire brilliance, show empathy for defeat and encourage sportsmanship.
Looking after our minds and our bodies takes time. We are always looking for some quick fix, and whilst some research out there shows that there may be some potential through HIT and certain diets, they can end up failing us. Anything that is done at speed is usually focused on the outcome. Increase my power. Drop a few pounds. Our bodies need to last a lifetime. We need to make time for them, not excuses, to move both vigorously and slowly. To take pleasure in that movement and to make time for it as part of our lifestyle. Trying to rush all our experiences, especially with our body, means we fail to connect with it. We don’t listen to it any more. We fail to respond to its needs, we live just in the mind. We might as well plug ourselves into Hilary Putnam’s brain in a vat. If we fail to look after our body, then our body and our mind will fail us when we need them the most.
There can be pleasure taking from doing things slowly. Some things in life, such as spending time with family, should not be sped up or interpreted by the modern world. In sport and physical education learning and progress should take time. When you try to accelerate learning, there generally is a price to pay with poor foundations, technique and ultimately enjoyment. I see this through my teaching and coaching of cricket with juniors. T20 has no doubt raised the profile of cricket and has increased the dwindling numbers attending extra-curricular cricket in the summer term. They all want to ‘smash’ the ball like Chris Gayle, but they want to achieve this before they have the basics in place. Frustration sets in when they can’t hit every ball to the boundary, and wonder why a good pitched ball takes out their middle stump with regularity. Youngsters then start doubting themselves and their ability to achieve results. The qualities that are needed for playing a lifetime of cricket – focus, stamina and determination – that came from the Test Format of the game, are no longer on display in the T20 version. Voltaire said ‘perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time’ and it is a constant battle to remind children this when teaching and coaching them. I worry that if sport becomes like everything else in our lives, for entertainment and instant gratification, then it will done at speed and without thought, ready to leave it and move on to the next thing that might hold our interest.
Anything worth having is worth waiting for, worth working for. We need to encourage children and ourselves to step back and be okay in the quiet moments whilst making small steps towards big goals. All the while assuring them and ourselves that we are enough. Perhaps in 2015 the greatest gift we can give to those we teach, to those we love and to ourselves is the gift of time. Rupert Murdock may be right that speed may win, but if we take the time, remain focused and patient, then there may be a greater feeling than success waiting for us all. Let’s all try and hurry up to slow down.