Life is not about sporting; life is about life. Sporting is not about sporting either. Sporting is also about life. If we think about the parable of sports long enough together, what emerges are character words such as dedicated, persevering, fair, hard-working, tireless, teachable, integrity, respect, and self-esteem.

This is a bouquet of words not to be overlooked. We should really pause in our minds, and spend more time on these words. Perhaps the power and popularity of sports in our culture has a lot to do with the character words, and in the end, perhaps EVERYTHING to do with them.

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano is a Latin phrase that translates to ‘a sound mind in a sound body’. Every time I speak with Coach Andy Walker about his vision of the Rosemere Soccer Concentration Program, he talks about the concept of the ‘student-athlete’, where academics and citizenship in the community are at the forefront, as the Latin phrase reminds us.

A culminating moment in the year for the Soccer Concentration Program occurred during the soccer showcase, in which Coach Walker and Elite Coach Lee Picton spoke to parents and community members about the vision and philosophy of the program. Lee’s speech really hits on the architecture (in terms of vision) of the Soccer Concentration Program at Rosemere High School. His entire speech can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbfp8cAku_k

I spent a week observing and getting to know Lee Picton. Lee Picton is a UEFA A-level coach, which is the highest coaching qualification in Europe. He played professional soccer himself in Europe, and now coaches in the youth wing of Newcastle United from the English Premiership, as well as Monkseaton Football Academy, which is a top level program in the United Kingdom. Besides his impressive credentials, what I really want to convey is the human element that Lee Picton embodies in his leadership and message. Lee Picton is a coach who leads by doing. When working with the student athletes, Lee is moving about on the soccer pitch ninety per cent of the time. In other words, he is walking the talk. He puts himself in the middle of the activity, constantly demonstrating the skills, and reflecting immediately on scenarios on the pitch in order to place the skills into context for the student-athletes.

Life is a parable that we all must forgo. Sporting itself is a microcosm of that parable. A sporting match is a shrunken down version of the big picture of life, containing (albeit clichés) victories and disappointments, moments that test courage, and turning points that define the end result. In my opinion, Lee’s most important and concise words were “the question we should be asking ourselves is not how can we best develop soccer players, but rather, how can we best develop human beings.” To me, this citation from Lee speaks directly to the great parable that is living. When a program in the community becomes conscious of the great parable, people start to take notice and get inspired.

As someone who works in education and as a parent, my perception of the Rosemere High School Soccer Concentration Program is that it not ‘just another program’, but rather a sapphire in the community. It is for the exact reason that the program is designed around total human development, with academic and citizenship values at the lead, that I have developed a true respect and admiration for what it offers.

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano: a sound mind in a sound body. I salute you, Lee Picton.