A long summer away from Oxford has overseen a wealth of sporting stories grabbing the front and back page headlines. Cherwell looks at the lessons Oxford students can draw from the sporting tales beyond our university.

Enjoy it while it lasts:

Sam Allardyce’s ill-fated tenure as England manager and his demise come with a whole host of morals. Firstly, his time in charge lasted a little over 9 weeks, the time between arrival at the beginning of fresher’s week and that relieved departure at the end of term. Oxford terms can be the pinnacle of our social and educative lives so far, as the national managerial role was to Allardyce – a goal he had been working towards for years – and the former England boss helpfully teaches us to appreciate the short but intense time we have here

Drop the excuses:

Not satisfied with only one lesson, Cherwell pairs Allardyce up with the Russian Olympic and Paralympic teams for an excellent, and highly relatable, teaching on excuses. Many students can imagine that daunting feeling of looking over a reading list, or a worksheet, filling up with a sense of dread that the work is too hard, or too long, or too complicated. We understand. If once in a while, a student may slip up, and arrive to their tutorial or seminar with work uncompleted or missing that little piece of understanding that the tutor is going to spot there are two choices ahead. There’s the Allardyce route, and the sensible route.

One can either admit wrongdoing and pledge to improve, or one can blame entrapment, claim the honourable intention of helping out a friend, or in the case of Russia, deny any part in the wrongdoing (and I suppose, in this loose metaphor, act as if you were fairly certain the worksheet had been completed and you cannot understand why it appears blank). The bottom line is that no one is gaining respect for transparent excuses, especially when they are not going to change any outcome.

The land of last minute work:

Sticking with the Olympic theme, Cherwell sees an opportunity to learn from the Rio Paralympic Games organisers. Having effectively admitted to putting the Paralympics on hold while they first try and sort out the Olympics, before failing to pay a number of national Paralympic committees on time (risking their ability to attend the games), and failing to sell tickets on schedule, the Paralympics did eventually go ahead without too much difficulty. Though a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive games it was when it came down to the sport, it was also plainly obvious to all observers that Rio had not exactly produced a blockbuster planned and executed perfectly far in advance. The last-minute job is a common strategy amongst students far and wide, with Oxford being no exception, but Rio has perhaps taught us that a little caution and care does not go amiss.

Know when you’ve had enough:

Moving on from the academic side of things, at least for a moment, and one can learn from the acts of Pat Hickey who was involved in a ticket touting scandal despite being the head of the Olympic Committee of Ireland. It is hard to understand his motivation, just as it is with Allardyce who’s £3,000,000 a year job was lost over a potential £400,000 (and who seems to be in for a rough time in this article). Just as Allardyce and Hickey should have been satisfied and known their limits, so too many freshers, and indeed older students, sometimes need to learn the benefits of moderation when it comes to some of the favourite pastimes of students.

No one is indispensable:

Turning to the shores of the US, one could observe over the summer the long, drawn out saga of deflategate. Tom Brady faced suspension for a quarter of the regular NFL season, and lost his final appeal. The New England Patriots were forced to turn to backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a 2014 second round draft pick, but he lasted less than one and a half games, to be replaced by his backup, 2016 third round draft pick Jacoby Brissett. Of course, the Patriots hardly stuttered anyway, with fears of a 1-3 or 2-2 start dismantled with ease. The moral of the story, even if you are considered one of the greatest of all time, or in the case of some Oxford students, consider yourself a seriously big deal, remember that you probably are not as indispensable as you may think.

Sometimes it’s a team game:

This summer, and this new season of sport, have demonstrated – just as last season – that the underdog can prosper. Leicester stunned all to win the Premier League last year at the overly repeated odds of 5000 to 1. However, keen to ensure that the fairytale does not end quite yet, the foxes have gone on to win their first two Champions League matches against Club Brugge and Porto, scoring four and keeping two clean sheets in the process. It may not have been the giants of Barcelona or Real Madrid that they were drawn against, but if Club Brugge’s fans can fail to fill the stadium because Leicester were not perceived to be a big enough side, then Leicester still deserve the underdog badge.

Similarly, and to the dismay of England fans far and wide, Iceland upset the odds to make it through to the quarter-finals in what was their first major championship, in a competition that also saw Wales compete in the semi-finals against eventual winners Portugal. Though Wales is a team perhaps built around one or two key individuals, a description that could equally be attributed to Leicester, the successes of these underdogs are all underlined by a brilliant desire to put the team over individual performances, glories or statistics.

Oxford may seem like a competitive environment where it is everyone for themselves, but as many tutors are keen to point out, we could all get the top grades if we wanted. Perhaps more realistically, we can all help each other make it through the weekly tutorials and essays to ease our burdens together rather than struggle apart. If only England had learnt well before its summer of ignominy.

It really is a marathon, not a sprint:

Just a couple of weeks before the start of term, in Mexico, the Brownlee brothers produced a wonderful sporting story that even earned a reference from Theresa May in her party conference speech. In the final race of the Triathlon World Series, with Jonny Brownlee requiring victory to clinch the overall title, the Briton was leading comfortably with 700m to go when, exhausted, he began to weave across the road, stumble, lose pace, and get caught up by the runners tussling for second and third. Fortunately for him, in third place was brother Alistair, who caught his brother, carried him to the finish line and then ensured that Jonny was pushed over the line before his younger sibling and into second place. May would like to focus on the comradery, the notion that we succeed or fail together. Rather, Cherwell would like to focus on the aiding brother’s post-race interview, when he simply stated “I wish the flippin’ idiot had paced it right and crossed the finish line first”. Ultimately, Alistair and Jonny could not really have succeeded together, because Jonny was in the running for the title and Alistair was not. Instead, Jonny could have succeeded if only he had not burned himself out so quickly, and, as his brother helpfully stated “jogged the last two kilometres and won the race”. Oxford terms might be intense, and relatively short compared to other universities, but it does not feel that short when the fifth week struggles permeate around the campus.

From all these helpful athletes and team, whether successful or foolish, students here in Oxford can learn and improve a great deal.
Here ends Cherwell’s lessons.