In Britain many look back with longing to the 'Chariots of Fire' tradition but are reluctant to admit how much international sport has changed.
Standards have risen dramatically, driven by harder training and more scientific coaching. The requirements of extreme performance have led to a more thorough understanding of injuries and the need for sports medicine clinics which also benefit average sportsmen and women. The public, enthralled by the skill and strength of our sporting elite, is understandably downcast when British hopes for victory or even excellence are not fulfilled. For a once great sporting nation, our current international performance sometimes disappoints. In Britain today we must adopt a more methodical and far-seeing approach if we wish to succeed.
Of course it is impossible to legislate for sporting genius, but we can use a simple formula for success. Select from a wide pool of talent at an early age, add the financial means to provide facilities, coaching and competition and, inevitably, as night follows day, high level sport will flourish, though Olympic gold medals can never be guaranteed. The ruthlessness of communist countries, with shameful cheating by the use of drugs, led to winning a disproportionate number of Olympic medals, but such a price is not worth paying. However, free societies can learn from each other, where methods have been honourable, and so we could transform the picture in Britain.
We have high hopes from the Government's initiative for schools, Sport: Raising the Game. Our working group now tackles an important sector of 1.5 million university students at the age crucial for developing sporting talent. By the year 2000, 50% of the British Olympic team is expected to be or to have been in higher education, so we should plan now.
No lowering of academic standards should be either sought or expected in accepting students of high sporting potential. Our evidence shows that there is no conflict between scholastic and sporting achievement. It also shows that for many students with sporting talent, university life has been a struggle and some may have abandoned their sporting hopes. By contrast, at universities which already have scholarships, there have been many successes. We were impressed by the rapidly changing scene at many universities which, responding to public demand, now accord a higher place to sport as a serious research-based scientific study. The example of the best, vigorously followed by the majority, would give a great spur to the rightful ambitions of our young sporting elite. A further justification, if it were needed is the hope and expectation that these scholars will, in their post university lives, be continuous exponents of the benefits of sport in their own communities.
Sir Roger Banister
Editor's comments - [ This 1993 document, on the back of Raising the game which put school sport front and centre to develop competitive athletes (mainly in team sports) developed a wider context for support for athletic students in UK Universities. What is remarkable for Sir Rogers' comments above, is the fact that at London 2012, so very many athletes were from public schools in addition to Universities; the latter seeing athlete scholarships as recruitment potentials. ] Reference this?Cryer, J. (2012). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from In the text: Cryer (2012)
Reference : DoNH. (1996) Sport: Raising the Game: Report of the working group on University sports scholarships. London: Department of National Heritage
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