Smelling the chips whilst walking along the beach

(image source)

I imagine the title of this post would invoke pleasant memories for the many Australians exposed to the combinatory effects of these two sensory experiences. Unfortunately such positive feelings are not the launch point for this post, but hopefully I can finish back there.

Here is the note I made on Sunday night about events earlier in the day…

We walked alongside two teenage boys during our family walk on the beach this morning, they were probably about 13 or 14. As we passed them I overheard one say to the other ‘I’ve quit my team this year. We had 5 state players in our team and I was just an average player….[pause]…they were a bit mean’ 

My immediate emotional reaction was pure sadness as I glanced back at the young boy who had spoken. A few moments later that turned to anger and frustration, which my partners ears bore the verbal brunt of for the next 5 minutes.

If the evolutionary purpose of emotion is to “evoke motion” then this blog post is the expression of that. However, rather than fuelling the outrage machine, I’ll be trying to channel this in a more constructive direction.

“Smelling the Chips”

Metaphorically, you could say my experience on the beach provided a “smell of the chips”. To trace the roots of the metaphor I need to re-tell a story shared over breakfast the morning after the Bunker.

A young man, Andrew, had moved into an apartment with an existing tenant, John. Whilst Andrew hadn’t detected it when briefly inspecting the apartment, after less than a day he began to notice a certain odour. When John returned home that evening, the smell was even stronger on him. Andrew asked John what it was and where it was coming from. John was a bit puzzled as he could not smell anything, but as Andrew detailed the odour more specifically the penny dropped and he explained that much of his work involved preparing and frying hot potato chips. The odour had originated from John’s work clothing and now lingered permanently in the apartment.

A few weeks after moving into the apartment, it suddenly occurred to Andrew that he could no longer smell the chips either…’huh’ he thought.

In light of this, “smelling the chips” is a useful metaphor for the heightened awareness of culture when first encountering, or returning to, a place/environment (particularly if it contrasts significantly with your personal history of place). According to Richard Eckersley (link)…

…cultures tend to be ‘transparent’ or ‘invisible’ to those living within them because they comprise deeply internalized assumptions and beliefs, making their effects hard to discern. As Ellen Corin says, cultural influences are always easier to identify in unfamiliar societies. Our own cultures appear to constitute a natural order that is not itself an object of study. This impression, she says, is an ‘unsupported ethnocentric illusion’.

Returning to Australia after 4 years away in the UK has given me the opportunity to smell the chips Down Under and they are frequently proving unpleasant, if not somewhat familiar to my prior country of residence and even more so across The Pond.

The walk on the beach was yet another jarring reminder of the implications this is having for young people and their experiences in sport, and others are starting to ask questions of a “meaner and less equal society”.

That being said, I did promise a constructive post so let’s turn to some promising conversations, events and innovations that could enable people, through sport, to lead society towards better smelling chips.

The Reading Gathering

Yesterday we had the privilege of hosting Ric Shuttleworth and Alex Beckey as they facilitated an open forum for anyone interested in discussing their perspectives on current and future needs in Physical Education, Physical Development, Movement Literacy, and Organised Sport”. Here are a couple of immediate reflections…

Informal Sport
A group from Monash University are exploring the benefits and challenges of informal sport participation

One of the challenges is how formal entities like sport clubs and organisations can create synergies with informal participation opportunities. Something I am trying through my son’s local football (soccer) club is coordinating “free play” sessions where kids can turn up and just play, whether that be football or other ball sports. In this sense I am following the lead of Joey Peters and hope to bring even a small sprinkling of the joy and passion she displays.

(update: I should also mention Craig Gunn as someone who embodies joy and passion!)

Youth Sport Summit

This Thursday Flinders University in Adelaide are hosting a Youth Sport Summit featuring a range of presentations “to arrest pervasive challenges, enhance practices and redefine priorities for the South Australian sport sector.” I look forward to attending and being part of the conversation (hopefully the work of the “graphic recorder”, who will be present to capture and illustrate the topics discussed, will be shared online).

AIK Fotboll, Swedish Sport and the UN Rights of the Child

Sweden enshrining into sport law the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a significant moment, as it invites the global sport community to critically examine the sport experience of young people and the adult influences upon them.  AIK Fotboll have been leading this movement over the last few years and we have been fortunate to share in some of their journey as a critical friend.

There is no such thing as an elite child. And this language is adding to the anxiety…of the kids and the parents.

– Mark O Sullivan from AIK Fotboll in an extensive interview with the Irish Examiner

Through myfastestmile we want to both contribute to and help join up these conversations. We sense the urgent need to rebalance society and believe people in sport, through great vigilance and care, can lead the way.

How are the chips smelling in your part of the world?