On 12th July 2016 a ‘Doping in Sports’ Conference was held in LJMU’s Tom Reilly Building. This was part of a much larger project with LJMU’s Endocrinology department, as well as the British Endocrine Society. This was my experience of our English-related part…
Teaching is something I am considering doing in the future – that’s why I took the Teaching ‘strand’ of the English Work Experience module during my second year. So, when I received an email from lecturer Dr Kate Walchester asking if I would be interested in a little bit more experience I jumped at the opportunity. However, as I settled and re-read the details (after confirming my desire to help out) I reeled at the title: Doping in Sports. Sports? As an elegantly sedentary literature student, sport, in general, is a long way down my list of thoughts for the day, in fact I think I go months without willingly thinking about sports at all. Yet, this was experience that might help me out in the future, so I reluctantly (and with trepidation) typed ‘doping in sports’ into my Google search bar…
A week later I sighed with relief as I met with Kate and learned that our slot would be ‘The Language of the Media’. Language! More like it! This was something I could get into. We devised a plan to use newspaper headlines and blank out certain words – think Have I Got News For You-style. The idea was to get the students to think beyond the media sensation of doping as cheating, and to consider the wider implications, to mental and physical health. The more I read, the more I realised how interesting the topic actually was, and the influence that the media could have on how it is understood by the public. It wasn’t as simple as ‘cheating’, but this tended to be the sole focus of reports on the topic, designed as they are to rile up not just the professionals, but sports fans too.
Armed with our laminated headlines (key words removed) about Lance Armstrong, Chris Froome and Paula Radcliffe, to name just a few, plus blank laminated sheets (I do like a laminator…), we received our 16-18 year old students (two groups for 30 minutes each). First the students (working in small groups) tried to guess the missing words, and I was pleasantly surprised how quickly they realised the media’s use of alliteration and hyperbole to gain attention. We then asked the students to explain why they had chosen their words, discussing the implications of such words like, ‘doping’, ‘cheat’ and ‘shame’. We asked the students to consider other health implications and write their own headlines. Here are just a few examples of what the students came up with (I was impressed):
‘Driving To Win Can Lead To Death!’
‘Stirling Superstar or Clown? Kids Copy “Role Model” Party Antics’
‘Maria Madness Causes Outrage’
‘Disbelief! Anger Over Shocking Supplement Regulations’
The students certainly learned something in our explorations of how language can be used to manipulate or maintain an image, and to grab a person’s attention and sensationalise a story. I know I learned a lot too about how language and communication can bridge gaps between subjects and people (as well as much more about how a classroom works). It was a great experience showing that there are implications to all of us regarding our health and not just sports stars. The students were a delight and incredibly polite and mature.
Thank you to Kate for letting me take part!