Team sports in school and character-building

With regards to your commentary dated November 5 and titled «Time for team sports in school,» I would like to commend the journalist for finally expressing an opinion on this matter. Participating in school team sports is a wonderful idea, but alas, this is not a new idea. These type of extracurricular activities have been common in the English-speaking world (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the USA) for a long time. The fact that these societies have benefited from this tradition is not at all in doubt. It is also no wonder that these countries generally excel in sports as their youth have been exposed to a healthy level of competition from an early age. However, what is more important for these young people is their exposure to sports in general and their exposure to a healthier lifestyle which allows and provides time for sports, studies and socializing in cafeterias. As someone who grew up in a former colony and was forced to play sports in both summer and winter, but was also given the choice to engage in other activities such as debating and chess, I can only look back with fond memories at the joy these activities generated and the bonding it created among the team members. The team, at its most basic level, just means that «Together Everyone Achieves More» (TEAM). Being given the chance to participate in team sports builds character in all participants, both in the strongest and the weakest. Firstly, playing team sports is very good for both the mind and the body. It allows the mind to break away from the books and provides it and the body with exercise on the field. Secondly, it highlights the importance of working together with other people in order to achieve a goal. Thirdly, it allows the young to develop and enhance their own physical skills, thereby potentially opening new avenues to them in the professional sports sector. This healthy form of competition teaches young people so much about not being the loudest, about being humble, about not letting others down on purpose, about accepting defeat as a team and relishing the praise that can comes through sports, also as a team. The bonding that team sports creates is immense. It obliges youth to listen to other opinions and not reject them out of egoism. It reduces the emergence of self-pride, but enhances the virtue of pride in one’s ability within the team and pride in the team as a whole. Team sports create bonds and help the young develop into more mature adults by being humble in both victory and defeat. It enhances negotiating skills and forces one to take others into consideration before taking any actions, which in my humble opinion is something that Greek society currently lacks immensely. My own experiences of life in Athens taught me that team work is not taken very seriously. My own experiences, there, which I admit are not reflective of society as a whole, taught me that sharing knowledge and information is not an accepted norm. People, both at work and socially, kept their experiences, thoughts and knowledge to themselves. They were generally not interested in sharing, which in my opinion, clearly indicates a total lack of team effort. I doubt they even understand what it means to work in a team. Reading newspapers and watching the news on the television about the school strikes and sit-ins reminded me of the «shock and awe» tactics used by the US government in their invasion of Iraq in 2003. That’s all these unruly youths are interested in. I disagree with the editor’s contention that sit-ins and strikes can cultivate the purity and experiences of working and playing in teams. Unfortunately these youths only understand that they prefer the status quo to remain as is, so they can perpetuate their own lazy and destructive habits. These youths totally lack self-discipline in themselves and toward others. They have no respect for others and their abilities, they have no respect for themselves and no respect for the past and what it has provided them. They are out for themselves and, to put it bluntly, have no concern for the collective good. This obvious lack of discipline can only be attributed to their parents and to society as a whole, as it was not taught through team sports. It is no surprise that so much inertia exists in modern Greece. I sincerely hope that Greece introduces mandatory team sports in junior, middle and high schools. However this is almost impossible in Athens and other large cities in Greece, where there is little or no space available. I am sure one point of contention with students will be that sports will limit their time at the cafeteria, sipping iced coffee and engaging in idle chit-chat. No matter how much hope one may have that team sports will take off at schools in Greece, I would not hold my breath. VASSILIS PETROLEKAS, London. I really enjoyed your article «Time for team sports in school.» Australia is a sports-mad nation that invests millions of dollars in team sports. I remember in high school in the 1970s playing Aussie Rules football against other high schools in the Melbourne metro areas and cricket over the summer months. I remember coming in to bat at number 7 and facing quick bowlers without a helmet. My father took me to learn tae kwon do as there was quite a lot of racism in the old days in Australia. People of a non-Anglo-Celtic background were referred to as «wogs» and he wanted me to learn how to defend myself. Three nights a week training on a wooden floor and full contact sparring before we went home. I am talking nearly 30 years ago. Our Korean instructor could barely speak English and was a strict authoritarian figure [as you could imagine from Korea back in those days.] When I went to stay with my cousins in Peristeri, Athens, in the early 1980s for six weeks all they did was smoke, smoke some more, drink Turkish coffee and go to watch Olympiakos on Sundays. Their school looked like an Iraqi jail with gravel and a very small basketball court with graffiti everywhere. On a recent visit to Athens not much has changed, the only difference now is that they drink a lot more alcohol and are quite obese. We are so fortunate in Australia to have schools with large playing fields and modern facilities, along with team sport competitions which bring together all nationalities in a competitive environment against other schools. For example, my son, in primary school, is in the basketball team for the under-11s and they play other schools. The team has two Greek boys, two Chinese boys and four Anglo-Saxon boys. When will Greek governments learn from other more advanced nations and implement similar policies? GEORGE SALAMOURAS, Melbourne.