Durham Alumnus Mark Pougatch shares his thoughts on sports
Mark Pougatch is one of the BBC's leading sports broadcasters and a permanent fixture on national radio and television. He graduated from Durham in 1990 with a degree in Politics (and The Baxter Prize) and is a member of Hatfield College.
As well as hosting Five Live's flagship Sport on 5 show on Saturday afternoons, you can catch Mark on TV as part of the BBC's sports broadcast team which covers everything from the Grand National to the Six Nations, and the Ryder Cup to the World Cup.
I've lost count of the number of times that people have asked me about the value of a Media Studies degree. At the behest of a friend of mine, I was giving a talk to some Sixth Form students the other day when they pressed me whether they should do such a course at university. I am pretty dogmatic about this: "No, "I said firmly. You learn about the world of the media when you're fully immersed in it and any rudiments that you need to cover - law, technical and practical issues - you can do so in a year long postgraduate course, like the type of one I attended after leaving Durham.
So, although I'm no fan of Media courses, I am a great believer in the benefits of playing sport at university or college levels, and of having a `hinterland` to a reporter. One of the reasons I don't like Media Studies courses is that a good journalist must have knowledge of life beyond the media world - i.e. an interest in the arts, culture, and history, the sort of thing that one might call a traditional degree encompasses. Sport also gives an outlet for another side of the personality to develop. Having played sport all my life, I know just how much you learn to rely upon others in a team structure - others, let's be honest, that you might not even like particularly but that you admire and know are good at their job. Believe me, I've worked with people I wouldn't choose to share a beer with (and I'm sure the feeling's reciprocal!) but I appreciate their professional ability and reliability. And that's often the way it is in a team. One leading former footballer with whom I've worked told me his very successful club side was made up of many disparate parts and the relations within ranged from the very friendly to the distinctly frosty but, once they'd all pulled on the same colour shirt, they all rowed in the same direction.
Playing sport also teaches you a huge amount in terms of social confidence in that you form alliances with people you might not be drawn to on civvy street. If you're a centre forward, it's the man lining up alongside you. If you're a second row forward, it's the man you're bound to in the engine house of the scrum. Competitive sport is such an important part of life's learning experience it drives me mad that so many primary schools have non-competitive sports days. But that's a discussion for another day!