School of sport: EVERY MINUTE COUNTS


IN the 2023 English FA Cup Final, Ilkay Gundogan scored for Manchester City within 12 seconds of the start of the match.

Looking back over the 30 years of the English Premier League (EPL), 103 goals have been scored in the first minute of a match with Chelsea and Everton being the teams who have scored the most, that is 12 different matches.

Interestingly Everton are also the team who have conceded the most times, 10 times in the first minute of matches.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, followers of the EPL know to what the term ‘Fergie time’ refers, that being Manchester United’s tendency to score in injury time (twenty-seven times in the history of the EPL), though in reality they fade in comparison to Liverpool who have now scored forty-one times in injury time.

In a previous article we considered how teams need, in the words of Michael Oher from the film ‘The Blind Side’, to “Hope for courage and try for honour”.

But the statistics above perhaps bring to mind a statement made by Jessica Yourko who said that, in life as much as in sport, we need to, “have enough courage to start and enough heart to finish”.

Courage and honour – courage and heart; both are important.

However, this latter quotation brings to mind the importance of both starting and finishing well. It is worth considering why both these times and qualities are relevant and essential.

Firstly, we are encouraged to believe that we need courage to start. Why do we need courage in particular? At the start of a match, the butterflies tend to be rampant in our stomachs, nerves are on edge, and the adrenaline is high.

The apparent importance of the occasion adds to the tension while the nerves enter the scene as we do not know what the opponents are going to do.

It may not just be tense nerves but equally it could be cold feet that mean we do not start well. We are slow off the mark, slow to react,  and slow to switch on to the intensity of the game.

Consequently, we do need to have courage to face those nerves, fears, doubts and threats. In life, procrastination is a serious enemy when we put off starting something but the reality is we have to start sometime, somewhere, and the whistle being blown is a sure reminder of that.

Secondly, we are reminded that we need heart to finish.

We may have lost heart during a match through tough tactics by opponents, unfair decisions or heavy concessions, all leading us to want to give up, to throw in the towel.

The temptation is to think “why bother?” when losing badly, when there is no hope of catching. Such moments hurt and that is when we need heart.

Yet the reality is, as 41 teams have found out when playing Liverpool, that it isn’t over until it’s over.

We have to play until the final whistle. And as a Don Francisco song has the line that “Love is not a feeling but an act of the will” so we realise it is the heart that wills players to finish.

Many will know the story of John Stephen Akhwari who was a marathon runner from Tanzania at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. After injuring himself badly in the first half of the race, he crossed the line over one hour and five minutes after the winner when there were very few spectators left in the stadium.

Asked why he continued running when he had every reason to stop, he simply replied: “My country did not send me five thousand miles to start the race; they sent me five thousand to finish the race.”

This man certainly had the heart to finish and to finish well.

Every child in our school needs to learn how important it is to finish, no matter in what position, and needs to learn how to do so.

The answer to that is simple; they must have heart, a love or passion or simply belief in what they are doing and why they are doing it.

What is more, as our children have started sports at school, they need to continue with sport after school.

Education is for life; sport is integral to education; therefore, sport is for life. For our children to continue playing sport through life they will need heart; they must have a love for it.

We have mentioned before that Magnus Magnusson was the host of a popular television quiz programme called ‘Mastermind’ where contestants were given two minutes to answer as many questions as possible before the buzzer went.

If the buzzer went off while he was in the middle of asking a question, his catchphrase was “I’ve started so I’ll finish!”

We in turn need to emphasise that our children must start and finish well.  What they need is courage and heart. Every minute counts.

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