Wednesday 26 November 2014

Should we all make our kids wear cotton-wool helmets?

Published 12/08/2014 | 02:30

Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny (L) finds his path blocked by team mate Nacho Monreal (2nd L) and Manchester City's Micah Richards (3rd L) during their English Community Shield soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London, August 10, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny (L) finds his path blocked by team mate Nacho Monreal (2nd L) and Manchester City's Micah Richards (3rd L) during their English Community Shield soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London, August 10, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Any time you start to talk about the differences between football now and the football you played as a kid, you run the inevitable risk of sounding like Ron Manager: "Jumpers for goalposts…two at the back, three in the middle, one's gone home for his tea."

It's an inevitable part of growing older. And, as sure as the first grey hairs begin to signify the start of your inevitable decline into decrepitude and incontinence, once you start reminiscing fondly of the game you played as a kid, as opposed to the modern version which sees 12-year-olds wearing multi-coloured boots, then you know you've crossed the line between being an angry young man and a grumpy old fart.

But grudging admissions of advanced decrepitude aside, I can hardly be the only person to look at the latest suggestion for under-age football and shudder.

Dr Michael Grey, who specialises in Motor Neuroscience at the University of Birmingham's School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, has a wizard new idea for children playing the game - he wants to ban them from heading the ball.

Graciously conceding that "I don't think that we should stop children from playing sport" (how jolly decent of him) he warns "children should not be heading the ball. We don't know at what age children's necks become strong enough to withstand the movement of the head when the head is struck by the ball".

As it happens, numerous training methods for children already discourage headers. But that's more to do with teaching kids the basics of passing the ball on the ground rather than hoofing it up to the big lad up front. But I doubt the good doctor is concerned about the way football in these islands is falling behind the rest of the world.

No, this is simply another example of medics who show no basic understanding of sport insisting on another crucial element of a game being removed.

It's not the first illogical, ideological broadside against field sports. Only a few months ago, we saw calls for all competitive rugby up to under-15 level being outlawed in Britain on the grounds that it was unfair on some kids to be on the wrong side of a hammering. Of course, the fact that the average kid will learn more from being soundly beaten than they will from winning matters not a jot to those who view life through a prism of potential damage.

All sport, even at the most junior level, contains the risk of physical injury. There is absolutely no question that both football and rugby need to implement stricter rules on concussion.

We've all moved beyond the old blather about a player who retakes the field after a head injury being a warrior. We all know that the most fundamental element of any sport is to reduce the level of injuries suffered, particularly those that involve a knock to the head. Nobody is disputing that, but there also has to be the realisation that people, especially children, can't live their lives as if it they are on a perpetual risk-assessment course.

Banning headers won't save lives. But it will kill the game.

 

'Sharknado' isn't real
 either, people

This is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and their flagship show was a documentary called Megalodon: The New Evidence.

Now, as someone who has been rather pathetically obsessed with sharks, and the long extinct Megalodon since I was a nipper, this was the TV highlight of the week.

Purporting to show new evidence that Meg still exists (the size of a bus, the largest marine predator in history has been extinct for about two million years) it quickly became clear that this wasn't an actual documentary but a spoof, along the lines of Animal Planet's Mermaids expose from two years ago.

The obvious fact that it was more of a 'what-if' than a 'this-is' wasn't enough to have some people going mental about being duped. Memo to people - when a previously unseen photo of a giant shark pops up beside a Nazi sub, there's a good chance it's a fake.

Oh look I got to the end without mentioning 'jumping the shark'.

 

Points mean prizes. For everybody...

One of the more uncomfortable truths that many of us refuse to acknowledge is that it's a dog-eat-dog world. That's neither good nor bad, merely a reflection of the way things are, as opposed to the way we would like them to be. But in a rights-obsessed culture, someone's feelings are seen as more important than their ability. Which is why we're falling so far behind the rest of the world.

A revolutionary new education report has suggested that people who sit the Leaving will now receive points when they have scored between 30pc and 39pc.

In other words they will be awarded points even when they fail.

But why stop there?

Why not give them points for bothering to show up? Why not reward them for just being fabulous and doing their best? In fact, why don't we scrap high pressure exams and simply have an interview instead, where the student can tell a panel about how they didn't bother studying, but have a good excuse and should therefore receive a good grade?

Ian O'Doherty

Irish Independent

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