Andy lost, we’re proud and now we need to back him up

He is emotional – never forget that
This blog has come about because Andy Murray lost a game of tennis.  Which is, essentially, what happened.
I’m gutted that he lost because, as everyone knows, the match that he lost was the Wimbledon men’s singles final and he was the first Brit to make those finals in 76 years.  
What an achievement, and it truly is.  Others before him have tried to get there and fallen.  Andy takes a lot of stick because he doesn’t smile a lot on court and seems to have no personality.  Well, he’s at work, doing his job and if he wants to do it right he has to concentrate.  I think that one look at him after the match ended today is enough to tell any doubters what, exactly, the game of tennis and Wimbledon actually means to Andy Murray.  Real raw emotion and everyone respected him for it.

Andy came out on Centre Court this afternoon, broke serve and took a quick lead against a fairly nervy Roger Federer.  The entire country dared hope and rightly we should.  Andy had, over the previous fortnight, shown everyone just why he should be in the final.  His hard work had paid off.  He was tough, his serve was good, all his shots had been tweaked and he played his matches under the steely stare of his coach, Ivan Lendl.  Perhaps he should be renamed Iceman Ivan Lendl.

Anyway, it wasn’t to be.  Andy was, of course, up against Federer.  A veteran to Centre Court finals and also winning the tournament.  Andy broke his own duck and won the first set but in the end Federer just proved too much.  Andy fought hard and he didn’t, like some suggested, choke or tank.  He was simply beaten.  He should take heart from that, he fought the best tennis player in the world.  The country is proud of Andy Murray and they should be.

Which leads me onto the next part of my blog here.  I was feeling all proud of Andy and upset for him as well, although firmly believing that this is the first of many Wimbledon finals for him, when I ventured onto Facebook and saw a friend’s rant about the state of Scottish sport and basically that as Scots, we shouldn’t be proud because he lost and we’re all accepting second best.

He’s right to a degree, Scottish sport is in a hellish state.  He was wrong to use Andy Murray as an example though.

His point about Scottish sport was that we should not be accepting second best in anything, we should be winning.  We have enough sports stars out there but as a country we’re not doing it.  The problem, not enough sports going on at the grass roots level.  His example, our local park have removed the football goalposts for the summer, just exactly when children are off school and could be utilising them.  I applaud his concern in this and he is querying with the council as to why.  I suspect the answer he’ll receive is that if they’re left out over the holidays they’ll be vandalised.  It’s a legitimate answer because they do get vandalised.  However, it can be solved.  Why can’t they be placed and removed as required as they are during the football season? The staff are still there.
The whole point he was making was valid and it got me thinking.  I took tennis as a model because the upsurge in wanting to play tennis will have increased thanks to Andy’s performances at Wimbledon.
Tennis is a great sport anyway, it’s very physical and is excellent exercise for people of all ages whether played for fun or competitively.
So let’s say you’ve been inspired to take up tennis and want to join a club.  Chances are you’ll be priced out. There are cheaper clubs out there and even free classes but the cheaper clubs get overwhelmed and the free classes are snapped up.  So what’s left after that? Well, one tennis club whose fees I ventured upon included an annual fee of £355 as an “ordinary member”.  That’s just crackers.  Yes it breaks down to £7.40 a week but sometimes $7.40 is a massive gouge out of a budget and that £7.40 is only for one adult member.  Add in some children, the cost of equipment needs (racquets, balls, clothing, footwear), refreshments and travel and it all mounts up.
Why though, should you have to join a club? Or why should children have to join a club to excel in the sport that they love.  It doesn’t matter that the sport is tennis or football, hockey, badminton, rugby, whatever.  These sports should be available to children as part of their Physical Education curriculum not just if they excel at it and might be considered as part of a team.  Why aren’t schools taking a lead in providing us with sporting stars? 
It’s not just schools of course, today’s society is very much one where children plonked in front of computer screens or in front of computer games is the preferred way to go.  One reason for this is that some parents feel the world isn’t safe enough to let their child out the front door to play.  Fair enough.  Then again, that’s where things have gone wrong.  When I was young we had this area called The Circle.  Parents used to arrive there with their kids who ran about daft.  We hid in bushes, we played games, we messed around and our parents used to sit together and natter about this, that and anything.  On a Friday or Saturday we went to one set of grandparents who had a garden and also there was a huge public area.  My parents plus grandparents, aunties & uncles had no problem being outside with a cup of tea or a beer or glass of wine as we ran about like daft with cousins.  We invented games, or played football or tennis  (who needs a proper net?).  On a Sunday we went to our other grandparents who lived in ex-servicemen housing.  Right in front of the houses was this massive green area.  Again the same thing, always outside, always running around, parents, grandparents watching.  No, we weren’t involved in proper sporting but we were active and this is something that’s missing.  We were always competing with each other.  We wanted to be the best, even if only on a basic level.
Reminiscence aside, we are a country changed.  So we need to change again.  We need to encourage our children to take part in events outside of the home, not just playing about but wanting to get involved in sports.  We need to get parents to encourage them to do so.  We need sports clubs that don’t charge to get involved.  Yes, £7.40 is not a huge amount…to some…but to others, particularly those with families and low incomes, it’s not easy to work that into an already tight budget.  It would also be unlikely that a family would be trying to fund one child.  Playing sport at more than a “muck about” level has become harder and more expensive.
It’s not hard to see where the country has failed in sports but it is exceptionally hard to get it back on track.  We’re hosting the Olympics this year.  If that isn’t a better springboard for boosting our need to get our sports back on track, I don’t know what is.