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Masters in the Making

13 October 2017

This weekend marks the final of annual Shanghai Masters Tennis tournament, with all the usual contenders having given their all to take the coveted prize. Of course, some competitors are more widely acknowledged as ‘Masters’ than others, with a wealth of experience and accolades contrasting with some of their less experienced colleagues’ more modest resumes. Mastery nowadays is a loose term it seems, meaning colloquially, ‘really good’.

  • masters in the making

In a way, schools are the place where masters are made. People that acquire skills, that hone and develop them over time, until they become instinctive, able to apply them in a wide range of contexts and almost always with great results.

However the route to mastery is strewn with initial attempts that are not quite right, or are in fact downright failures. Importantly, these are not standalone shortfalls, they are followed by ‘masters in the making’ standing up from their fall, dusting themselves off and having another go. Repeatedly. When this cycle has been repeated time after time after time, mastery starts to emerge, as if by magic.

On one of our stairwells we have a huge image of a tennis great, Roger Federer, quoted as saying, “There is no way around the hard work, embrace it.” Well, he certainly knows what it is to be thought of as a ‘master’ of his craft, and so we might heed those wise words well. The route to mastery, whether through a sport or an academic subject, is certainly going to be hard. The true future masters do not shirk that journey, rather they embrace it.

So, whether they ever get to lift the winner’s trophy or not, their abiding prize will of course be the satisfaction of having become a ‘master’ of their skills. So, whether you are a tennis fan or not, give a thought this weekend to what you may do to support the young potential masters in your family. After all, the future depends on them.

Dr Neil Hopkin FRSA