Sportsmanship will come First at Wembley

Seamus Cullen, a Sportmanship First volunteer, and Bognor MP Nick Gibb practise some sporting behaviour with pupils at Edward Bryant School  Picture by Louise Adams
Seamus Cullen, a Sportmanship First volunteer, and Bognor MP Nick Gibb practise some sporting behaviour with pupils at Edward Bryant School Picture by Louise Adams

Sportsmanship First is heading to Wembley. The organisation which is revolutionising the way young people are taught about the importance of sporting behaviour has gained the support of a number of national sporting governing bodies as well as schools minister and Bognor MP Nick Gibb.

One is the Football Association, who have offered to hold the next meeting of all the interested parties.

As previously reported in the Observer, SF is the brainchild of Birdham-based Steve Crossley, who over several years has worked with a team of volunteers to take their message into schools across the Chichester and Bognor area.

They have taught thousands of children the principles of sportsmanship through unique workshops to the acclaim of teachers, parents and sports staff.

The workshops use classroom-based role-play, story-telling, questions and physical activity to teach children important social values through the medium of sport.

The aim is for SF to go nationwide - and a visit to one of the sessions, at Bognor’s Edward Bryant School by representatives of the FA, RFU and England Athletics has given their hopes a massive boost.

The FA’s Respect manager Dermot Collins joined Fred Batchelor from the RFU, Christine Benning from England Athletics, representatives from Pompey FC and Nick Gibb to witness SF in action.

After watching, the schools minister said: “The values are very important, and in the best schools this is encapsulated in the whole ethos of the school.”

He added: “I’d like to see more of this outside of the classroom. It shouldn’t be a curriculum issue. This is for schools to decide whether they wish to take this approach.”

Collins said: “Because they have managed to get it into an educational environment, it gives it a real significance.

“I think most of the kids thought, actually I’ve done mathematics today, we’ve done English, and now we’re going to learn something else which is really important.”

Batchelor, a retired school master and chairman of the English Schools Union, added: “If this message can really take root in schools then it provides those who are working in school with an added means of preparing the youngsters for life.

“Because when we talk about sportsmanship, the qualities that we are looking for aren’t particular to sport – they apply to life and where these things really take root, schools are ultimately going to produce better people and better citizens.”

Benning, club and coach support officer for England Athletics, was also keen to look at the idea further.

The enthusiasm of the officials was welcomed by Ben Polhill, sport and physical development officer at Chichester District Council, who has been working with the SF team for several years.

He said: “It is a fantastic product. The aspiration has always been to do this on a wider scale, so to have these NGBs around the table to help with that - that dream is closer to coming true.”

The result was a welcome outcome for Crossley, who said: “The fact that high-level representatives from The FA, RFU and EA took serious interest in SF and were keen to attend the SF demonstration with the schools minister was a clear message in itself. And the fact they’re keen to discuss how best to jointly move the campaign forward is brilliant.

“I’m very pleased, not just for SF, but for children who, now on a national level, may have the opportunity to adopt and promote these simple but critical social messages, enabling a genuine improvement in attitudes that can demonstrate honour and soul.

“This will be a great goal for the country and GB sport.

“I am very pleased the style and delivery of SF workshops has been applauded by such high-level representatives and I’m looking forward to working with them.

“On a national scale, we can produce some fantastic ideas using exciting methods to communicate vital moral values that can, critically, be understood – as understanding is the golden key for positive and lasting change.”

For more information visit www.sportsmanshipfirst.org

THEO CRONIN & STEVE BONE