Creating a culture is so vitally important when nurturing the love and passion of a discipline for an individual to thrive to their full potential. The environment in which an individual finds them in can make or break their sporting ambitions. A culture can provide an investment that’s life long in the roller coaster of emotions that comes with supporting a team, living and breathing every moment of the passion for a sport. Youth sports are more than scholarships, they are a representation of yourself, a life lesson to stride in to the adult world, and an opportunity to be complete with your community.
The following is an excerpt taken from Matthew Syed’s ‘The Greatest, What Sport Teaches Us About Achieving Success’.
There is a stretch of about thirty yards between the corner of the Ealing Road and the entrance to Griffin Park. I was striding up there with my father-in-law, Andy, in the autumn of 2010, for a League Cup clash between Brentford and Everton, when he was accosted by John, a friend he had not seen for more than thirty years. `What the hell are you doing here?’ he was asked. Once we got inside the gate, he met another old friend, then another. It almost felt like a reunion. Andy has been an ardent supporter of Brentford since the mid-Fifties (he grew up in south Ealing), attending all the games for more than a decade and a half. But then life had taken him away from southwest London. He had found a teaching post in Wigan in the 197os, then Derby in the 198os. He had a family. But the connection never wavered. For forty years, he kept in touch with the score every Saturday afternoon, first with the Green’un (the Derby Evening Telegraph football edition, published on Saturday evening at 6 p.m.), then Ceefax. Whenever he was in London, as he was that evening for the Everton game, he would always buy a ticket and enact the familiar rite once again.
I went to Griffin Park with Andy on Boxing Day. He moved back to London in 2012 to be closer to his grandchildren and has attended every home game since. He still sees people there who attended in the Fifties and Sixties, fans who provide continuity between past, present and, in the case of their children, the future. In many ways, this is the most profound aspect of fandom: the idea of a ritual reaching through the generations, an identity that transcends time. Andy has already bought my two children (a two-year-old girl and one-year-old boy) Brentford jerseys. Brentford are having a pretty good season. They are sixth in the Championship, having ricocheted up and down the divisions over recent decades. There is even an outside chance that they will reach the Premier League, although a rather chastening 4-2 defeat by Ipswich Town on Friday and a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday put this hope into some perspective. But if they go up, or down; if they plummet into non-League obscurity or find a sugar daddy who can finance their ascent into the Champions League, it will make no difference to Andy and those of his ilk. They will celebrate, or commiserate, but they will not change their allegiance. Up in the chief executive’s office, the contradictory motivations of the modern-day club are ever-present. The yearning to get promoted is balanced by a concern about what it might mean for their traditional fan-base. ‘It is a difficult balance,’ Mark Devlin, the chief executive since 2011, said. ‘We are really keen to get into the Premier League, but we have to recognize our responsibilities to our fans. ‘It would be easy to jack up our prices, and to milk Premier League status for all it is worth, but that would alienate many of our most loyal supporters. It would be terrible for the club, not in Community terms, but in commercial terms too, if we hem out for the sake of new “fans” who might desert us as soon as results turn against us. We have to be mindful of our traditions.
Proposals to move away from Griffin Park are well advanced. The club have bought land half a mile away near Lionel Road (the cut-through between Chiswick High Road and the M4). This will facilitate an increase in capacity from 12,000 to 20,000 but it will also pose risks of scale and finance. Most fans are delighted with the move, due for 2017, but they are nostalgic too, about Griffin Park, which will be converted into social housing along with a memorial garden. ‘This has been the ground since 1904: Devlin said. ‘It is not the most beautiful ground, but it has so many powerful memories.’ The history is so vivid at Griffin Park, you can almost smell it. The walls, the gates, the pubs on the four corners of the ground, the blistering paintwork, the old-style terrace to the right, the greetings that are enacted in the quadrangle of concrete inside the entrance as fans drink beer and eat meat pies: all of them speak of the rich and complex social role that football has played in this corner of southwest London for more than a century. Loyalty is an underused word in modern football, but it represents the raw material of fandom. Statistics reveal a degree of fickleness when you look at the big picture. Crowds increase when a club are doing well and diminish when they are plumbing the depths. But this obscures a deeper and more vital truth: the hardcore fan who continues to watch, who continues to care, whose Saturday afternoons are defined by what is going on at the stadium, whether they are there in person, or waiting – anxious, fretful, cautiously optimistic – while living in exile. Football is a sport, but it is also a rite. It is not just about the Premier League, glamour fixtures and slick analysis on Sky Sports. At its roots, it is about what happens in places such as Brentford and clubs up and down the country, in the Championship, in non-League football, on fields and pitches in long-forgotten corners, where the only cover for spectators is an umbrella and a long overcoat. Football is a community institution, a part of the social fabric that can be understood only in places where the indescribable thrill of identity and belonging has not been obliterated by what Marx called the cash nexus. I was hit by a realization that this extraordinary sport should be celebrated, not just castigated, as so often happens. Its value and meaning should be recognized. Andy left that afternoon chastened by the score line. No true fan is going to be happy about a 4-2 defeat, but he also left with a spring in his step. He walked out of the gates, as he had for the first time sixty years earlier, with a sense that he had been part of a social ritual that mattered, to him as well as to hundreds of thousands of others up and down the country. He had been to the match.