My best teacher - Roger Black

11th September 2009 at 01:00
A football-mad teacher taught this athlete how to work as part of a team before he took to the track

I went to Alverstoke Junior School near Gosport in Hampshire and they were the happiest days of my life. I loved it. I was always the fastest kid in school, but at that age football was my sport. I played football every minute of my life; I don't recall doing anything else.

I went on to Portsmouth Grammar School, where they played rugby. I didn't want to go there. I carried on playing football on Sundays, but at school I played rugby and ended up on the wing.

Athletics was never something I focused on and I didn't really take it up until I'd left school at 18. I preferred team sports and when you're a kid athletics is such an individual thing. I did win the school sports, but it's a very natural thing at that age.

Mr Musselwhite ran the school football team when I was about eight or nine. His enthusiasm rubbed off on us. You can't take football if you're not really into it, and Mr Musselwhite was really into football.

You remember your teachers when you're that age. He was slightly built and I just remember he had a moustache. I was centre forward and the tactics were "Hit the ball over the top and Roger will get to it".

He made us a team and it was my first experience of somebody treating us as a team, rather than a group of individuals knocking the football around. We didn't train much, or at least it wasn't proper training. Mostly it was just playing.

We had a very good team and we got to the final of the schools cup. We lost 2-1 to Elson Juniors in Gosport, not that I'm bitter. They were harder than us but we went into the lead early on, then they beat us. A boy called Paul Bruce scored for us and he went on to swim for Great Britain.

Teachers can make a big difference. I got involved in the Fitter Schools programme to help schools provide proper sports teachers and run after- school clubs because a lot of schools struggle to find a teacher to do sport, and that is selling kids short.

If you want to engage children with sport you have to find the right people to do it. It's not difficult to get kids into physical activity if you're enthusiastic about it yourself. You can tell the difference between somebody who turns up in a tracksuit and gets the kids involved, and somebody who is doing it because they have to. Mr Musselwhite wasn't a sports teacher but he had a passion for football and that came through to us.

Primary schools don't automatically have PE teachers and all that says to me is that PE is not that important, and I think we're now recognising that it is. We lose a lot of children to sport because teachers don't always know how to engage them. Some pupils don't like being in the classroom and the only release for them is the PE lesson.

I was really happy at school up to 11. Then I went to the grammar school and I struggled academically. I was saved by sport. My life was about sport. I was lucky that we had good playing fields and a good PE department. I did all right in my O-levels and A-levels but really it was all about sport.

Roger Black won Olympic silver in the 400m in the 1996 Games and was a member of the gold medal-winning 4x400m team in the 1991 World Championships. He is involved in Fitter Schools, an initiative aiming to improve PE teaching and target child obesity. He was talking to Nick Morrison.

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