Goals, Music, and the Importance of Sport

Chris GreenhalghAmong the ‘50 most important documents of civilization’, according to Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan in Treasures of History, is the ‘nondescript notebook’ in which were written, in 1863, the English Football Association’s thirteen rules of football, which determined the course of the modern game.

I was never very good at football (cricket was my sport), but my elder son was - and still is. He represented Kent, had trials for the South of England. I used to drive him to matches every Sunday morning, and stand in goal in our garden as he smashed the ball towards me. Now he works for Manchester United, and is following his dream. I once conceived a TV show related to football. Each week a guest player would be invited onto the show. They would choose the seven best goals of their career and, to accompany the images, they would select extracts of music that meant something to them at the time. The show would then comprise the footballer setting each goal in context — not only the importance of the goal in that particular game or at that stage of the season, but also its personal significance in the striker’s mind. The proposed title of the show was ‘Goal Music’. It would artfully combine the stand-out images of a goal-scoring career with selected extracts of music, giving a snapshot of the footballer’s life. As part of the show’s unfolding narrative, first we would see each goal at normal speed, with the original live commentary, and without any music. Then we would see the edited version synchronised with the selected music. 

The footage might be in slow motion, to add poignancy. The music, together with the goals — if done well – should prove emotionally satisfying and moving. The nature of the celebration would also be included to add a bit of humour. It could be a power-slide towards the corner flag, a chest-bump with a team-mate, the shirt pulled over the head, a finger pointing to the dug-out, or we might simply see the player standing motionless – arms outstretched like a messiah to receive the fans’ acclaim.

(Digression: my personal inability to score goals did not stop me developing my own signature goal celebration, just in case. Cultivated on the training ground and in underground dance clubs, it involved a languorous backstroke motion, accessorised with a pout of the lips and a slow, self-congratulatory nod of the head. Marco Tardelli would surely have been jealous. End of digression.)

The idea of the show as I imagined it was to engage not just sports fans but also to appeal to any audience with human interest. Each programme might end with the public participating as they voted on the best goal/music combination from the seven examples broadcast.

I never did anything with this idea. I was either too busy or just not interested enough. I get bored quickly. But I have never been bored with sport. Whether playing cricket, squash, playing football or table tennis with my sons, or watching it on TV, it has given me enormous recreational pleasure over the years.

Sport is an increasingly important factor in society in general and in our lives in particular. Unsurprisingly it has always played a key role in education.

There have been several recent studies conducted into possible links between participation in sport and academic attainment and research into the link between participation in sport and attributes associated with ‘character’. There are clear indications from various studies that participation in sport helps children to develop mental toughness. See the HMC research from 2019 here.

In a further recent study, data was obtained from over 500 Year 12 students in seven UK schools. GCSE results were used as a measure of academic performance and participants were asked to complete a mental toughness assessment, a psychological well-being measure, and to answer specific questions about involvement in sport and other co-curricular activities.

It appears that an involvement in sport at school is linked to:

  • greater character developmentand psychological well-being
  • a significant physical health advantage
  • improved skills of teamwork and leadership

Many students in the study recognised that sports participation was related to improvements in their performance in class. Very few of those interviewed felt that it negatively impacted their schoolwork. In fact, it seemed to increase levels of self-discipline.

I would endorse those findings, and reaffirm the importance of sport both in the curriculum and the co-curriculum for the personal development of pupils as well as ultimately for the benefit of their academic achievement. And if as parents you can set your children’s best moments to music, then you might have the makings of your own family show.

Blog by Chris Greenhalgh
Principal & CEO – The British School of Milan