The Value of Sport
After last year's amazing summer of sport, it felt like we could do no better. The success of Team GB in the London Olympics, inspiring performances by British paralympians and even a British winner of the Tour de France all made the nation proud.
But already this year we are seeing new sporting triumphs to match. The England cricket team has won one-day internationals against South Africa and New Zealand, and this week they began their campaign to retain The Ashes at Trent Bridge. Last Saturday we saw the British Lions triumph against the Australians down under.
Capping it all, we've seen the first British winner at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977 and the first men's singles winner since Fred Perry in 1936. Andy Murray's triumph lifted the nation.
At times, as Sue Barker said afterwards, the tension in the match was so great that it was almost unbearable to watch. The pressure on Murray was enormous, and the physical strain of playing in extremely hot conditions was palpable.
But Murray's skill was matched by his determination. It was a reminder that success in elite sport, indeed in any walk of life, is never just about talent: it's also about hard work. Indeed, this is just one of the important lessons that sport can teach young people.
I hope that Britain's successes will encourage young people to take part in sport, but this requires more than heroes. It needs facilities, inspirational coaches, and investment in emerging talent.
It should all start in schools, so the announcement earlier this year of an £150 million a year to boost school sports in England was good news.
Under the new plan, a primary school with 250 pupils will receive an extra £9,250 of sports funding per year. This is equivalent to around two days a week of a primary teacher or a coach's time.
On launching the scheme, the Prime Minister said that it would "ensure the [Olympic] Games count for the future too and that means capitalising on the inspiration young people took from what they saw during those summer months".
We have had just had National Schools Sport Week, and this week saw the final of the Sussex Summer School Games, held in Crawley.
I don't think sport for young people is incidental to learning or a ‘nice to do' option. I believe it's really important - to motivate pupils, to teach them the virtues of team effort, sportsmanship and hard work, and to inspire young sporting stars of the future.