Thursday, 12 February 2015

Role Models

In an era when the public perception of top sports stars is one of people with far too great a sense of self-importance, it is refreshing to write on a few people who do not conform to that stereotype.

First this week comes news of a 'no swearing' initiative at Derby County. While not a zero-tolerance policy, it is refreshing to read of a top sports club taking its responsibility to fans, especially younger ones, to a different level.

Most people swear occasionally. As my old Dad has always said to me, down the pit if a load of coal dropped on you and hurt, as loads of coal tend to do when they connect with the human body, you either cried or swore to get it out of your system. Somehow it seemed to help, much as it does if you stub your toe or trap a finger.

Yet swearing shouldn't be accepted and for me isn't acceptable in mixed company. Call me old-fashioned, but I switch off if in the company of those whose every sentence is accompanied by an Anglo-Saxon utterance. Or I say something about it, depending on the company I am in.

While Derby County's approach is steeped in psychology and not allowing the 'inner chimp' of self-control to escape. it is refreshing to see sports stars moderating their language and being aware of their status as role models, on and off the pitch. 

It made me think of similar things at Derbyshire, where one doesn't have to look too closely for men of admirable character.

You have Tony Palladino, a man who was big enough to make a stand against corruption in the game at his former county. It would have been easy for Tony to have buried his head in the sand, once he knew what was happening at Essex, but instead he was big enough to say 'This is wrong' and do something about it. He will always be a sporting hero in my eyes, if only for that act alone and irrespective of his fine efforts on the field.

There is Wayne Madsen. As affable a man as ever walked on a cricket pitch, I cannot think of a better role model for a sports club than the Derbyshire skipper. His conduct, attitude and appearance are always first-class and we are fortunate to have such a man as captain. There are few who would walk, aware that he had nicked a ball to the keeper, as Madsen did at Chesterfield two summers ago and such an action both exemplified the man and highlighted that sport could be played in the right spirit, even at its higher levels.

Then there is Tom Poynton.

Few would have blamed the wicket-keeper had he kept a low profile after the tragic loss of his father in a car crash at the end of last season. Together with the injuries he sustained in that same accident, many would have been laid low and it would have been perfectly understandable. Surgery meant that he missed the entire season and he could have kept his head down and stayed out of the limelight.

Instead, he threw himself into the community role that he was given to build bridges with the city's ethnic communities and by general admission did a fantastic job. That work was a major factor in the club attracting Cheteshwar Pujara to Derby at the end of last summer and may well see him return for another spell this year. He also project managed the Club Golf Day at Morley Hayes and helped to deliver the Cricket Derbyshire Foundation Healthy Heart Campaign.

In raising the club's profile in the community, it made a good contribution towards the securing of Council support for ground redevelopment and the player's friendly, outgoing personality has won him many friends in the wider community.

It has also earned him massive respect within the game. He has faced adversity and the challenge of getting fit for his sport once more and while doing so has shown that sportsmen really can make a difference.

He is fit to resume his career this summer and I am sure that everyone will be thrilled to see him (and hear him!) back behind the stumps once more. The award of a Professional Cricketers' Association Personal Development Scholarship for his work is well-deserved


His Dad would have been very proud.

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