Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some things just have to be facilitated

This Saturday past, I took my son to an intercounty athletics event. It was the most disorganised sports event I have ever encountered, and I'm still seething. But more of that another time.

He was there to throw the javelin and he hadn't practised since qualifying the Saturday before. Prior to that, the last time he had hefted a javelin had been when he qualified for the same event two years ago!

You see, it's all very well for the runners and the jumpers. You can go down to the track and run any time. If the track boasts a pit, you can long jump or triple jump to your heart's content. Even if there is no track, the runners can still do some work on their own. But the field athletes... well, you can hardly mosey down to the local park and start flinging a shotput or a discus about the place, now, can you? Even less a javelin (I have seen one of those go through a boy's foot and on Saturday we very nearly saw an official get kebab-ed!) You can't exactly run up and pole vault over your neighbour's fence.

Even assuming that one's parents have forked out for the necessary piece of kit.

Allow me to point out that a decent pair of javelin spikes for a (UK) size 10.5 foot (and, no, you can't wear running spikes) costs a cool £80! Then the javelin itself costs a mere £100 for a decent one. To make matters worse, different ages require different weights, so you know when you buy the thing that you'll be buying another one in about two years. Most of us stop after the shoes, relying on the competition organisers to provide the javelins.

Some things just take specialist kit and that's all there is to it. It may be a javelin. Or a spinnaker. Or a whatchamacallit doohicky thingummy. For whatever reason, the general populace might not have easy access to that kit. If they're going to develop any kind of proficiency with it, there is simply going to have to be some form of guided/facilitated learning. And you can't have just any old body rocking up and telling you what to do - it's got to be someone who knows how to use the kit.

Sometimes, incorrect use of the kit can result in injury or even death. A person could get impaled. A person might drown. A person might... well... die. Once again, some form of guided/facilitated learning is necessary. And you can't have just any old body rocking up and telling you what to do - it's got to be someone who knows what the dangers are and how to avoid them... and who knows how to communicate that to a learner.

In many cases, virtual worlds can be an absolute boon. Simulations can teach a lot. They can save lives (and maybe even money). But not always. You will not improve your upper body strength by practising the clean-and-jerk by means of a keyboard.

There are times when we simply have to look at the situation and say, "There is only one way to do this properly...." Then we have to bite the bullet and do it. Because if you aren't going to do it properly, well.... you know what Granny used to say!

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