‘Sport – the great teacher’
Sporting Compass: With Dr Pippa Grange and Paul Oliver
As a sports psychologist and founder of Bluestone Edge, I am fortunate to have many conversations with people about the substance and meaning of sport.
My colleague Paul Oliver also engages with people at all levels across the sporting sector to keep his finger on the pulse of the latest news, views and issues.
In this space each fortnight, we will share some of these stories, insights and possibilities in relation to people, culture, ethics and leadership in sport. I hope you enjoy the conversation and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.
All the best, Pippa and Paul
‘Sport – the great teacher’
13 December 2013
Category: WINNING MIND – the art of achieving
Guest blog from Stephanie Dale*
Eighty-three year old Margaret Fisher has carried a crumpled piece of paper in her wallet since 1953. That was the year, as an inspired young Australian from country NSW, she set her sights on an impossible dream: tennis’s holy grail – Wimbledon.
Scrawled on the paper in her own handwriting is a quote from Kipling, that is etched into the double gates marking the entryway to the famous courts:
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
and treat those two impostors just the same.”
Margaret’s life has had three primary streams – family, work and sport. Family legend has it she’s the only Australian to have played exhibition matches with two world champions: tennis with Jack Kramer (an American champion in the 1940s and 50s) and table tennis with Miklos Szabados (a Hungarian and Australian champion who won 15 World titles).
She was a swimmer, a netballer, a tennis player and table tennis player. To this day she is a cricket watcher, a golf watcher, a football watcher – in fact, Margaret will rise in the pre-dawn hours to watch anything at all that involves humans and a ball.
For 30 years she was also a teacher, whose focus outside the classroom was playground sport. Sport, she said, was invaluable for children.
“Team sport is absolutely essential for kids at school,” she said. “Through sport they learn to share, to not blame others for mistakes, to enjoy the feeling of offering others encouragement, to keep going if things turn black, and to do their best – over and over and over again.
“Team sport teaches kids to be honest – to not cheat, to abide by the ref’s decision and that it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know what to do’. All these are great life lessons.”
Margaret said children’s sport was also good for parents.
“Sport keeps kids’ minds active – and it tires them out physically,” she said. “Anyone with an active child needs to redirect their energy and attention to sport.
“Also, through team sport particularly, parents learn to surrender control of their children – parents have to back off and allow someone else to take charge (the coach).”
Of all the tennis players Margaret has watched and met on the court, one stands out for her as the embodiment of the Wimbledon epitaph – Steffi Graff.
“Steffi knew how to meet triumph and disaster just the same,” Margaret said.
“After her matches, you wouldn’t know whether she’d won or lost. She was always courteous, she would always thank the umpire, she was always gracious.”
It took a great deal of courage for Margaret, the country girl from a Great Southern Land, to sail to England alone to play at Wimbledon in 1953. As it also takes courage for the now 83-year-old woman to set her sights on the world seniors crown, flying to the northern hemisphere year after year to compete for the over-80s title.
Sport also teaches courage.
* Stephanie Dale is an author and media coach http://stephaniedale.net/books-2.
Margaret Fisher is her mother.