Ten years on, thinking about desire paths

This month, I will have been away from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) for a decade.

The years seem to have raced by. My decade anniversary coincides with another AIS re-organisation.

I have tried to stay connected with my colleagues at the AIS but have stopped visiting the Bruce campus. Earlier this year (July), I wrote in response to Wayne Goldsmith’s Facebook post about the AIS.

My decade of absence, Wayne’s first line (“It’s breaking my heart’) and a visit to Sport Ireland for their High Performance Knowledge Exchange Conference have sent me off thinking about the place of the AIS in national and international sport.

There has been a consultation process in 2017 in Australia for a National Sport Plan that will be a long-term strategy for the whole of sport that will have four key pillars: participation, performance, prevention through physical activity, and integrity.

The Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport (2017) proposes a vision with four sub-components, and seven game-changers for the Australian sport community over the next twenty years.

My rewording of the vision uses strike through text:

For Australia to be the most an active sporting nation, known for its celebration of playinclusivity, integrity, thriving sports organisations, continued exceptional international success competitiveness in international competitions sport events, and a world-leading vibrant sports industry. (My emphases)

I am perplexed that we are aspiring to improve “our Summer Olympic performance from 10th in Rio to a top 5 place by 2036”. I had hoped that a visionary document for the 21st century might have gone beyond the sportive expressionism of a nineteenth century nation-state model.

Perhaps we might talk about optimising performance (at all levels) instead.

I could not find mention of ‘climate’ in the document. (It was not identified as one of the six megatrends in Australian sport in 2012.)

My decade away from the AIS and life in a rural community since 2007 have encouraged me to think about bottom up approaches to playful activity enriched by inclusivity and integrity. This to me is the essential transformation of a system that de-emphasises international success, celebrates personal growth  and acknowledges that performance at quadrennial festivals is a very small part of a much bigger task.

This task for me is to offer opportunities for young people to engage in physical activity and create desire paths one of which might lead to high performance sport. We can do this by valuing effort, championing integrity and inclusivity, and accepting that we are not defined by medal outcomes.

I am hopeful that the National Sport Plan in 2018 will provide an organic, long-term plan for the flourishing of play, games and sport in mid-21st century Australia … replete with expressive joy.

Postscript

I am using ‘desire paths’ in the way that Kate Bowles does:

is that it represents shared decision-making between separate users who don’t formally cooperate. So a desire path is both a coherent expression of collective effort, and completely unplanned — in fact, it’s the opposite of planning. Simply, each one puts her or his foot where it feels most sensible, and the result is a useful informal path that’s sensitive to gradient, destination, weather, terrain, and built through unspoken collaboration among strangers.

Photo Credits

No limits (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

The parsnip field home (Steve, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Conversations into stories

A Medium alert this morning brought me news of a Sporticus post, Conversations at the notice board.

In it, Sporticus connects a noticeboard outside his gym with his reflections on pupil flourishing. The post concludes with this observation:

If I could harness the conversations at the notice board and make sense of them as well as I can the data in my spreadsheet, then perhaps I might have a chance at helping my pupils change their behaviour for the better?

I find it fascinating that he reflects on his practice in this way. His other blog is titled DROWNINGINTHESHALLOW. In that blog, Sporticus engages with a diverse range of issues in physical education, teaching, coaching and learning. One of his posts there last month, The Reserve, was a moving contemplation of the responsibilities teachers (and coaches) have to nourish conversation and become part of young people’s sport and life stories.

I had just three years as a physical education teacher (1975 to 1978 at Whitton Comprehensive). It took me all of those three years to be sufficiently aware of my responsibilities as a story listener and builder. By the end of three years at the school, I looked forward to the hum of conversation and excitement outside my gym door as the next class got ready to start the next episode of their stories.

Sporticus’s post this morning about the notice board was an excellent synesthesia trigger about my days of teaching and my subsequent research in teaching physical education. It was a reminder too that for three years I did start to learn about conversations into stories … even when pupils had lost their voice.

Photo Credit

LSE Sports Day, Malden Sports Ground (LSE Library, no known copyright restrictions)

A Community-Focused Modified Boxing Program

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Paul Perkins is involved in an exciting initiative.

Paul and Allan Hahn have been successful in securing funding to introduce a Community-Focused Modified Boxing Program in twenty schools in Uttarakhand, India in 2017.

The project aims to use an adapted form of boxing (ModBox) to:

  • provide health and fitness outcomes
  • develop life skills for participants
  • raise awareness of environmental issues
  • increase opportunities for female participation in sport

ModBox has been designed to be a low-risk form of boxing. It takes place in encouraging and supportive environments led by sensitive, appreciative coaching and teaching. Emphasis is placed on athlete enjoyment and safety. Participants wear impact-absorbing gloves. There is no contact with a co-participant’s head or neck.

ModBox has five core values:

  • Safety
  • Continuous learning
  • Fair play
  • Inclusiveness
  • Respectfulness

The program aims “to provide space and time for young people to enjoy the benefits of regular exercise and to use informal learning through sport to teach important life skills”.

The course of study can be found here.

Photo Credit

Bridge over Alakananda (Runa Bhattacharjee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About Paul and the ModBox Program

Paul Perkins is a PhD Scholar at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE) and the Participation Manager at Boxing Australia. Allan Hahn has provided support and guidance with the development of this program. The ModBox program is being supported by the Australian Government, Boxing Australia and SEDA India will be supplemented by contributions from an Australian company, VTara Energy Group Pty Ltd, the University of Canberra, and the NungshiTashi Foundation. The program is funded through a partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of an upcoming aid initiative.