WATCHING Nicola White play a starring role in last Friday night’s Team GB Women’s Hockey final was truly inspiring.
The performances of so many of our athletes in Rio have been a source of national pride to everyone but, of course, it’s always even better when you’re actually cheering on one of your own.
My husband went out to play snooker and I settled down to watch the drama unfold.
It turns out I was one of nine million people watching live in the UK and BBC One even took the highly unusual step of postponing ‘News at Ten to show the whole game.
To the undisguised disgust of my cat Mitzy, it was not long before I found myself shouting encouragement at the television.
Many moons ago, I used to play a bit of hockey myself. That was down on the red clay pitches at Hathershaw School where you usually had to pick bits out of your knees after the game, but this Olympic surface and the quality of play were in a totally different league.
The Dutch team dominated at times but you couldn’t fail to admire the guts and tenacity our team displayed throughout.
Twice they hauled themselves level but still looked to be heading for defeat until our Nicola swooped to equalise: taking the game into that dramatic shootout, won by Hollie Webb’s decisive penalty.
It was one of many magic moments for Team GB and not surprisingly their spectacular achievements – their best medal tally in 108 years – has prompted a wider debate about exactly how it was achieved, and whether anything can be learnt from it in other areas of public life.
Some have suggested it proves the merits of central planning and the benefits of Lottery investment. At a cost of £1.09 to each resident per year, it certainly represents great value, but surely picking ‘winners’ from, say, entrepreneurs and businesses would be much more problematic.
Some have also highlighted the ‘detail’ element – the idea that this success has been down to a team, making painstaking ‘marginal gains’ which left absolutely nothing to chance. Again that clearly has had a positive effect.
But I’d also put the triumphs down to something else that’s rather simple: the fact that success often breeds success.
As in sport, the most difficult part in tackling major issues as a Council Leader (especially when trying to transform performance) lies in the hard work that goes into researching and defining your plan. But if you get that right and capitalise on early wins it can lead to momentum and a snowball effect.
It’s a lesson that we try to apply in Oldham, and with some success.
One example is education where our ‘central planning’ and detailed approach in tackling underperformance in local schools was launched with the publication of the Oldham Education and Skills Report back in January. Already we’re seeing a pay-off.
The number of secondary school pupils attending a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school is now more than 70 per cent, compared with just 39 per cent last year – and last week’s A-level results also showed improvements across the board.
Part of that new approach encourages successful schools to share their best practice and data with others, which helps to raise the bar across the board, not just at one school.
As I said, success breeds success…
On a final note, I’m sure that Team GB’s exploits have motivated many people to get involved in new sports, or just to get fit and active again, which is brilliant.
The power to inspire others is a truly rare and wonderful gift, and we are blessed to have role models and ambassadors like Nicola White for our borough.
When we first set out to build two new leisure centres in Oldham, some scoffed at our stated aim to capitalise on an Olympics legacy.
Perhaps they might view that a little differently now.