A two-edged-sword experience in sport and leadership

A friend recently described a two-edged-sword experience with his own son with regard to sport and leadership. Though revolving around swimming, the message with regard to tennis or any other sport might be similar. 

The son started off life extremely extroverted, and talented. The son also started learning to swim via a water babies’ programme, before he was one year old. At age 4, the son joined a local swim club. The club was described as one that trained to a high level, but was gentle and supportive of the kids. And it made sure to mix socialisation, and mutual support, into its programme. After a final practice session before a swim meet, after the kids had trained hard, they would segue to a poolside social session over food, drink, and supportive talks that went beyond any narrow focus on the upcoming meet. The son relished that environment. He became reasonably competitive as a swimmer, but looked to the sport club in a win-win fashion as the club did to all its members. The son looked forward to practice and meets – which his parents attended, and supported by serving as backup timekeepers. Then the family had to move, as dad’s job changed. His new school had a swim team – a requirement for the new school set by both parents and son. What they didn’t know was that, though the school had a warm and nurturing environment to go with academic excellence, the swim team practiced and competed more like a euphemistic stereotypical military organisation than like a more well-rounded child-centred one.


The son immediately got turned off by the “cold” win-lose unsociable environment of the swim team, and quit. The son, being resourceful, increased his emphasis toward music for a means of expression. But, of course, there was never a need for an “either-or” situation: sport and another pursuit such as music make a fine blend of interests – each with their own complementary benefits.

The message for us? Let’s help to keep Hylands as an environment where youth, and families, can enjoy sport, and the leadership experience that comes with sport in its broader context of healthfulness, intellect, camaraderie, and joy de vivre (pardon my franglais) – and overall support for the whole child. To complement the “virtual” world of “social networking” we can provide social networking, and more, via a “real” world.