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Compiled by PHILIP REID
Time for Tomic to tame down
Tennis loves a bad boy and by far the most interesting character on the professional circuit at the moment is a man who isn’t winning any titles . . . and who won’t be picked by his country for their opening Davis Cup match next year.
Nobody doubts Bernard Tomic, a 20-year-old Australian, has plenty of ability; it’s just he is making the headlines Down Under for all the wrong reasons, with stories about driving infringements (including being fined for joyriding in a V8-powered BMW M3 last month) and of partying and enjoying the good life.
Tomic’s world ranking has seen him fall from number 27 earlier in the year to a current low of 52nd with the result Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter has dropped him from the Australian team for February’s match with Taiwan.
Rafter has shown his cut-throat captaincy in the recent past, omitting Marinko Matosevic – the Australian number one – for an encounter with Germany in September after the latter lost interest in a previous dead-rubber match with a South Korean earlier in the year. A contrite Matosevic has since returned to the fold.
Tomic would do well to listen to the advice of last year’s women’s US Open champion Sam Stosur who asked, “What are you doing? ” adding: “He’s got this unbelievable tennis ability and he’s not really using it at the moment.”
Bernard, listen to the woman!
Poulter proof that competitive spirit prevails
It is always intriguing when an elite sportsperson reacts to something that gets under their skin. Ian Poulter – whoever would have thought it, but more of a role model as days go by – was at it in midweek and didn’t hold back in succinctly offering his opinion on how competitive sport (or the lack of it) features in the British schools system.
Not surprisingly, given he is a dab hand when it comes to the social media vehicle, Ian James Poulter used the medium of Twitter to let us know of his angst.
“This thing in British schools is total crap, non-competitive sport. Not scoring, not telling kids who’s won because it discriminates. BS,” tweeted the multi-millionaire golfer from his expansive new house in Florida which is only six months old but already has the builders back on site to extend a garage flush with Ferraris.
Poulter is no sports psychologist, nor is he a sociologist. He is, however, a sportsman who has excelled in his profession and, probably more importantly, also a family man who clearly adores his children and wants to instil his own sporting competitiveness into them. His point of view, however succinct, is a worthy one; even if his own children will be brought up in a US schools system where state-of-the-art sporting facilities will be part and parcel of their education as they go from middle to high school and, presumably, on to the collegiate system.
The stance adopted by Poulter is not new. On the night of Europe’s Ryder Cup comeback win over the USA in Medinah in September, Poulter – when asked about why his eyes almost popped out of his head with intensity in his desire to win – responded: “In every form of sport I played [growing up], whether I was playing football, whether I was playing pool, whatever I was doing I was really competitive. My dad ingrained it in me, he always told me to play to win. I’m a bad loser. My dad’s a bad loser. That’s why I’m hard to play against in matchplay, and why guys dislike me and want to beat me.”
Poulter’s pointed remarks were aimed at the British schools system, where there is an ongoing debate about the merits or not of competitive sporting structures in the aftermath of the Olympic Games.
What’s more important? To have everyone playing sport, especially a team sport; or to focus on participation and fitness? When is too young to start? How do you counter the significant drop-out rates (a worldwide problem) of teenagers? Do you have a system where there are formal competitive matches? Or not?
It’s a debate that has been held in meeting rooms the world over. Indeed, getting the balance right is something that has proven difficult for different sporting administrators and schools and clubs.
When is too much too much?
Here, we all know about the early morning training sessions before school starts in the run-up to the various cup competitions in rugby. We know of training camps undertaken by GAA clubs in the quest for the Féile na Peil.
But, then, sport at the sharp end is all about competition and Poulter’s view will strike home with the majority of players and coaches who take their sport, at whatever level, seriously. He is talking of experience on the matter.
“When anybody tells me I’m not good enough, that becomes the motivation,” he told us on that night in Chicago.
“I had that in a number of things. At school. At football. And it fuels me. I might not have been born with the talent of some people but I’ve got quite a big heart and I’m prepared to go out on the line . . . in football, I always wanted to be the guy that scored the goal. I like to give it 100 per cent. If I go down, I’m going down in flames.”
Such language strikes a motivational chord with many sportspeople. To others, it provides the reason why children should be protected from competition until they are older. It does seem bizarre to have sporting activities where there are no winners and no losers.
Sport is about winning, and accepting defeat. It’s about instilling humility in the winner, for sure.
But where would sport be if there were no scores?
No winners. Or losers.
Poulter – rejected after a 10-minute trial by Spurs in his own youth – is living proof of that. The competitive spirit will always win out.