school of sport:with TIM MIDDLETON
THE 75-year-old golfer stood over his ball on the eighteenth green and declared, “This putt is crucical!” — yes, crucical! It was not simply crucial, but it was more than that; it was crucial and critical rolled into one! In truth, it was not actually crucial, critical or crucical; it was simply a bit of good-natured banter over a putt to halve a weekly friendly game of golf between two old rivals but it was not unlike the child who would say to himself: “This putt to win the Open Championship!” or “This penalty to win the World Cup!” Of course, they were not actually those scenarios, but for those who do reach the point where they are indeed putting for the Open Championship or scoring the penalty to win the World Cup, such moments might have been key. It is far more than that though. While the Open Championship and the World Cup are the pinnacle of sport, they are not everything in life, but those moments will help us when we do have more important moments and battles.
In a previous article we considered how much competition can be petty, insignificant and unimportant while a major example of that point may be found in the rat race, the subject of another article. However, there are times when competition does become serious, crucical even, and that is when we need to enter the right race. We do need to compete in the right race, the right fight, so let us be clear about the difference between them. We might well distinguish them by the following statement: “Pride is concerned with who is right; humility is concerned with what is right”. The rat race is all about pride, but of course, there are two types of pride; in that regard, this statement also describes the difference between the right race and rat race: “Good pride represents our dignity and self-respect; bad pride is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.” The right race is run with dignity and respect.
We must compete in the Right Race, we must fight for the right, or else much will be lost. However, again let us be very clear what we mean by that. By saying we must fight for the right, we do not declare that we must simply fight for our rights, as too often that can lead to people having a sense of entitlement with regard to winning — winning is not a given, but has to be won. We must go beyond that. Neither should we think that “fight for the right” means we fight to be proved to be right. No, the right race in which we must compete is running and fighting for the right issue, the right value, the right reason, the right cause — for what is right.
The right race requires us to do the right thing right; it means we must show honour, honesty, humility and respect if we are to win. Zig Ziglar, an American author, has helpfully pointed out, using sporting terminology, that “When you do the right things in the right way you have nothing to lose because you have nothing to fear.” We do not lose in the right race if we do that. So too Abraham Lincoln contributed to this subject, also through a sporting analogy, when he said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” Even further back in history Publilius Syrius’s comment is still valid: “What is left when honour is lost?” We can lose a race but we must not lose honour; that is the right race.
There are many things we need to fight as part of the right race. Someone has said that we “have to win the private battles before the public wars” and such private battles may be against the enemy of apathy, self-pity, doubt and, perhaps above all, greed. Only once we have won those battles might we be able to compete against the rampant enemies of corruption, self-centredness, depression and arrogance. But the fact is that we are all in fact entered in the right race. The right race is the only race in which we must compete and indeed win; it does not matter if we win other races if we do not compete with integrity.
We might take Mark Twain’s comment with the smile it deserves, when he said, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” It should not astonish people and the fact that it does is because we have been in the wrong race. All the competition in which we compete should be preparing us to compete in the right race. We need to be right for the fight if we are to fight for the right. Let us teach our children to run that race; it is even more “crucical” than the putt to win the Open Championship or the penalty to win the World Cup.
l Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.