Think back to your school days, and not the good times such as flying through an exam, having fun and banter with your favourite teacher, or messing around with your mates in the playground.
No, think of the horrible, dreary January days behind the desk, trying not to fall asleep as the teacher pushes knowledge towards you that you really don’t want to hear. Or the same lacklustre, unappetising food at dinner-time that you had yesterday. Or sitting in a classroom with kids that you dislike.
What you needed was an adventure that still required discipline, concentration, teamwork and ability, but threw in exotic travel, spicy food, and games with friends against other eager young sportsmen. What you needed was a school sports tour.
Sports tours cater for anyone who likes testing themselves in the sporting arena. Yes, there are some kids who are equally good with the pen, bat and ball, and effortlessly go from being top of the class to top of the scorers’ charts.
But there will be some children who just aren’t very academic. They might lack enthusiasm for English and motivation for mathematics. Put them on a football or rugby field, or a tennis court or cricket pitch, and their eyes light up. Imagine a solid week of that, against new opponents – it’s the ultimate high for a young sportsperson.
There are also the cultural differences of travel abroad, or even to another part of the country. A team of eight-year-olds travelling from Cumbria or Cornwall would be amazed at the difference of environment and vibe in London, but a youngster doesn’t really even need to travel half that distance to enjoy playing away. Indeed, for some smaller schools, travelling to the other end of the county can be a novelty.
So if one is lucky enough to tour abroad, somewhere such as Spain, Holland or Sri Lanka, then it will seem like an incredible, unbelievable world. Climbing the Lion Head Rock at Sigirya contrasts beautifully with the hustle and bustle in Kandy, while the imposing Sagrada Familia and the fortress that is the Nou Camp will both be talking points for years afterwards.
Players will get to experience a new environment while taking part in their favourite sport. It’s a real test playing at high altitude, or in freezing conditions, or on a completely dry pitch. The likelihood is that you’ll be up against a set of players who are familiar with those impediments, and probably thrive on it. Even the best player in the school team needs to raise his game in these circumstances, meaning that the sports tour is a test of fitness and skill, but also resolve. It may even be many young players’ first experience of an ‘away’ game.
Once home, in the world of social media the child can now keep in touch with their opponents. There are 1.35bn Facebook users on this planet and it’s a fair bet that some of the other players from Barbados to Bratislava will have accounts. Indeed, a pupil may even be able to ‘Like’ another team and follow their further games over the years against other teams from across the planet. Remembering those games, and knowing that they can still check the latest pictures, comments and videos from their opponents, will provide some small comfort for pupils when their minds are stuck in a boring classroom.