Sportsmanship

In the final assembly before Easter the winners of the school table tennis tournament were announced. Predictably the champion was Taran, as he has been for five years running. Jasper, for the fifth year in a row, was runner up. That Taran, he doesn’t like to share his crown. I felt it was time he met his match; I threw down the gauntlet there and then.

I am partly to blame for his domination of the sport. I played him a few years ago, letting him win of course, it’s the sort of thing caring adults do. I’m sure that victory helped boost his confidence and empower him to become the terrifying school champion he is. But had I created a monster? Now, aged 16, it was time to put him back in his box.

So, at table tennis club this week, I returned. My master plan was to lose my warm-up game with Jasper, partly to give him some of the confidence I had provided for Taran years ago and partly to lull Taran into a false sense of security. I certainly didn’t want him seeing my repertoire of serves. The plan succeeded and Jasper had a taste of glory. To be honest, he wasn’t as quick as I had expected.

We want our students to have confidence without arrogance. As Taran offered me first serve, could that knowing smile have been the latter? All the more reason to publicly humiliate, I mean gently educate, this upstart. I put wicked spin on my very first serve, his feeble return looped high into the air. I soon noticed that he never played a winning shot. He just kept setting me up for smashes, hopeless really. My bat looked OK but it wasn’t really good enough for the speed of shot I attempted to play, perhaps my glasses were dirty and my vision impaired, I’m not quite sure. Either way, I didn’t dominate in quite the way I had intended. I narrowly lost both games.

If Taran and Jasper were champions, then the standard of table tennis at AKS was nothing to shout about after all. I’d be having words with Mr Sobey. Recognising the magic was still there, perhaps I should take over the club myself.

I then watched Taran and Jasper play each other. Suddenly the ball was whizzing over the net at a hundred miles per hour, rallies lasted for twenty or more shots, it was mesmerising. This was like watching the olympics. The penny dropped.

It is not just adults who will seek to boost the self-esteem of others.

M H P Walton
Headmaster