School of sport: CARRY THE PIANO

And then, the piano comes alive through the playing of the maestro.

THE moment has arrived, the moment everyone has been waiting for. The stage is set; everything is now ready for the event to begin. The audience goes silent as the lights dim and the stage is darkened, except for one spotlight revealing the grand piano in the middle of the stage.

On walks the pianist to the welcoming acclaim of the audience, bows, then settles on the seat in front of the piano. With expectation and excitement filling their minds, the audience now quietens down and awaits the moment.

And then, the piano comes alive through the playing of the maestro. The music plays on the minds of the audience, pulls the strings of emotions, and fills the theatre with pure genius. With extraordinary expertise, almost in a world of her own, the pianist moves easily, fluently, passionately through the score, lifting spirits and trailing worries in her wake.

 She plays with understanding, feeling, depth, heart, her fingers gliding up and down the keys effortlessly.

The audience is in awe, enthralled by the whole experience, their minds wandering and wondering. And at the end of the performance, she rightly and humbly receives the acclaim of the entire audience.

Our minds might also wander as we ponder this scenario and consider how much the above description can equally apply to a sportsperson on the field of play.

The sportswoman glides through the game effortlessly, raising hopes and spirits of the crowd, exciting them, enthralling them. She demonstrates extraordinary skills and ability, completely caught up in the events, understanding and interpreting the state of the game, putting her whole being into her performance, to the great delight of the crowd, who stand to show their respect and appreciation of her performance.

At such moments of acclaim, the star performer, be it a musician or a sportsperson, may well (but hopefully would) seek to acknowledge that she could not have achieved or performed as she had done without the support of her family and friends nor without the instruction, direction and inspiration of her teacher or mentor or tutor. She was the one in the spotlight but others helped her to achieve that status.

In mentioning all such people, there may well have been some people without whom the musician could not have performed as she did, yet who were not recognised or appreciated.

Yes, the parents, the tutors, the mentors were all unseen but instrumental (forgive the pun) in helping the maestro receive the glory and honour but there are others who had to play a part for her to succeed and perform with such distinction and delight.

That person (or persons) was, of course, the people who carried the grand piano onto the stage. Without them, there would have been no glory.

On the sports field, some players receive greater acclamation and attention than others.

The strikers usually receive the glory as they ‘scored’ (though actually the team scored, not the individual; the individual simply happened to be the last person in the team to have touched the ball). That is their job and that is what is remembered; they scored the goal.

The goalkeeper can at times be in the spotlight and receive great acclaim and glory, saving the team on different occasions by his expertise, bravery and athleticism. However, both those players know only too well that they could not have achieved what they had without the involvement, assistance and input from many people. We need people who will undertake the hard, dirty, unpleasant, unheralded work on the field.

In an article on the BBC website (Dec 4 2022), Phil McNulty wrote that “Jordan Henderson may lack the so-called "X Factor" of many of those around him in England's squad, but as the old Liverpool manager Bob Paisley used to say: ‘You need somebody to carry the piano before anyone else can play it."’

Any and indeed every team needs such players. And that is our job as parents and coaches to ensure that our child knows and appreciates that everyone’s role is just as important, significant, necessary and vital.

We need also to ensure that awards we give out are not simply for those in the spotlight glory positions. We need in our team players who carry the piano (we might also note that one man cannot carry a grand piano on his own; he needs several — so with sport). Let us recognise and reward those people just as much; there would be no concert or success without them.

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