The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Wall Is Your Friend …

Many years ago, we were working on a NIKE project about inspiration for China.

China and sport had a weird relationship because it was either seen as a distraction to academic success or a ruthless and relentless act to achieve a pre-determined goal.

I still remember spending hours looking for any photo where we saw a parent or a teacher or a coach encouraging a kid doing a sport … but it was hard. Not because adults didn’t care about the kids in their charge, but because there was this attitude that encouragement encouraged laziness.

Tough love indeed.

But when we talked to kids who loved sport for no other reason than loving sport, the thing we found fascinating was how one of their great inspirations was a wall … or a court … or a park somewhere near where they lived.

This would be where they could kick, throw, hit, head or play against hour after hour … day after day.

This was where they could play without judgement or expectation … but with plenty of competition.

Because walls don’t get tired.

They don’t show sympathy.

They’re always ready to play.

We all have a wall.

They may look like others.

But there is one that is yours and yours alone.

For me, it was the wall of a Church opposite Erika’s sweet shop at the Top Shop.

It was up the road from my childhood home.

I would go up there every night over summer.

Sometimes by myself. Sometimes with friends.

And that would be the arena and the competition for all manner of games.

From playing footie with empty cans … playing cricket by throwing tennis balls as hard against the wall as we can to just practicing our skills of tennis or keepie-uppie. And then on a Friday evening – after school – a bunch of the kids from where I lived would gather by the field next to the church and play a massive game that drew all the girls from school to watch us.

That wall was a major part of my childhood. Of my love of sport. It helped me connect to where I lived, to the people who lived there and just what I wanted to do.

Sport was deeply entrenched in the place I grew up.

Not in terms of a formal team – though we had that and we also had Nottingham Forest doing well at the time – I mean as an outlet for kids to do shit.

Now I’m not sure if that is still the case.

We live in gentrified times.

Where noise is challenged with authority.

Where parks are placed on the outskirts of towns, not the centre,

Where sport is becoming more about the quest for fame rather than enjoyment.

It’s one of the biggest thrills of living in New Zealand.

It’s still an outdoor culture.

Otis has done more running around and visited more parks here than he ever did in the UK. Which has helped him meet more friends than he could ever have hoped to in his time here.

Given the year he had in lockdown, the impact on him has been huge.

And that’s why we should encourage sport to be played as much on the streets as in the parks and schools. Because sport adds to communities in ways that makes communities.

Let the wall be culture’s best inspiration and competitor.

12 Comments so far
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Before anyone slags me off, I also accept this is flowery as hell.

It is my childhood.
It is Otis’ reality.
But it also sounds like it belongs on the Hallmark Channel.

Comment by Rob

you fucking said it.

Comment by andy@cynic

is this your attempt to blackmail nike to make your idea?

Comment by andy@cynic

I remember Rob telling me he’d never bought Otis a pair of sneakers because nike kept sending him free pairs, so I don’t think he would need to up his current blackmailing strategy.

Comment by George

Well noted George.

And yes, the sneakers are still coming. Sssssssh. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

and stop trying to sound youre mr fucking nature. the only reason you go outside is to check the fucking wifi is working.

Comment by andy@cynic

When did Oprah take over this blog?

Comment by Billy Whizz

Are you saying I’m Oprah.

Poor Oprah.

Comment by Rob

It might be pure schmaltz, but I like this post. Like you, I had a wall I constantly kicked, hit and headed balls against as a kid. It was a simpler time but one of my favourites. I am glad to hear Otis is loving his new life. Being able to play outside with other kids must be heaven for him, especially after a year of lockdown, which likely feels like half his life given his young age.

Comment by George

Yep … it’s why sports brands – and town planners – need to remember sports culture [and culture in general] is made on the streets, not on out-of-the-way fields.

As for Otis, you’re right. 20% of his life – and the most recent 20% at that – was spent locked at home. NZ is like a bloody revelation for him and I have to say, it’s an absolute joy to watch.

Comment by Rob

Do you support Forest because they play without expectation?

Comment by John

“Sports culture is made on the streets, not on out-of-the-way fields.”

A lovely expression of your perspective Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

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