Hurry up and Slow down.

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.

4 thoughts on “Hurry up and Slow down.

  1. Before I begin to respond to your post I want you to remember that I respect you greatly and that I fully understand where you are going with this post. I appreciate your commentary but feel obliged to make certain comments. Firstly with regard to the credit that Murdoch has been given: He recognises one aspect of life, of human nature and tribal instinct that “…travels fast” but it is not progress. His commodity is fear! Fear does travel fast, much faster than love, and it drives at our most basic and insidious nature. Fear causes suspicion which makes us look for the solution to real problems, such as a lack of community, a lack of political power, a lack of resources, by focussing on peoples, ideas and imagery that are slightly different to us. It is this fear generation, relentlessly promoted by News Corporation, amongst others, that travels fast but that limits progress repeatedly and deliberately. I totally agree with you about the need for us to go slow and to savour the experience of existing in the same physical and emotional spaces as those we love but also those we do not yet love. Do we provide this opportunity in a classroom, on a field, or in a gym? Is there time, room and opportunity for connection, for human processes, to understand one another, to connect our consciousness? Is there time for learners and educators to move at a pace which is relevant to them personally? Or does the system and someone else’s idea of progress demand endless and relentless sacrifice of what is truly valuable in the name of supposed “outcomes”? Many teachers out there struggle to accept what I am going to write next but here it comes: WE CAN CHANGE, we can change it all. All we need is a genuine discussion about what we all need, what the human condition actually is and what role an educational mechanism can play in this process and then to do it by initially binding together and recognising our similarities as being far greater than our differences. If any system, power structure or individual gets in the way of this form of progress all we have to do is to thoroughly and ruthlessly ignore it and do what we know to be right. It is that simple. The commodities that we actually need are “truth” and “courage” and, thankfully, every human being has endless depth in both.

    I believe in purposeful consensual change. I believe in starting every aspect of human education from one simple question: How do human beings actually learn? What agenda encourages us to start from any different point?

    Many readers will find me extreme but, please, do not simply accept the authoritarian propagandising that “change is not possible” and that the world is unfixable. Any individual or institution which presents a message of fear has an agenda and it is this same agenda that creates the need to marginalise time, humanity and common unity (I write this as a deliberately separated term). I offer myself to anyone who reads this to collaborate, discuss and challenge one another.

    With great love & unity,

    James Simms (@MyPEExam)


  2. Here here. I think that is why so many ‘country kids’ excel at cricket or any sport for that matter. Their lives aren’t competing with so many conflicting rapid activities.

    I worked at a country school with only 70 kids from K-10 in a town of 200 people. They enjoyed the challenges of perfecting a cover drive, even if it took hours. They never got ‘bored’ of doing the same sport in a 6 week block. Every afternoon many of the kids would congregate on the parched oval to play a game of cricket or footy.

    Now I’ve moved back in to suburbia. 3pm comes and our ovals are bare. That isn’t to say they aren’t being active. Sure, they go off for 40 minute training sessions but there is something inherently special about playing footy every afternoon with mates. In PE they are constantly focused on ‘What are we doing next week?’ in pursuit of trying something new rather than building on the foundations of this week.


    1. Having been a ‘country boy’ myself I can see many of the things you are saying in my own upbringing. It also meant I was outside a lot with friends walking, exploring, fishing and being active. Those foundations I have taken into the rest of my life and they have been very important.

      The foundations of good motor skills are hugely important if we want children to have an active and healthy lifestyle. The competence it gives, increases their confidence in moving and this can only lead to them being more willing to participate. Primary School, along with parents, have a big responsibility for this. I also think they have a responsibility for developing habit. This would then allow secondary schools to develop their knowledge and understanding further and give them wider opportunities. Both habit and good foundations take time, sometimes years not just lessons. They require practice. It also helps if the environment is fun and allows all children a little success.


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