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The lost art of doing your sums

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Yo, math teachers — could my adventures as a soccer referee actually be a teachable moment?

My watch, it goes without saying, is the only time-keeping that matters on a soccer pitch. Players, especially in the second half, are constantly asking, "How much time left, ref?" and I always instead tell them, "24 minutes played."

I do that because I’m the only one who decides how much time is left. I can add on time for injuries, discipline, and deliberate time-wasting by the team that’s ahead.

But here’s where the math part comes in — I can’t believe how many teenagers then turn to each other and ask, "So how much time is left?"

Yes, I know I’m ancient and that I learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide on paper back in school in the 1950s, and can also do all that in my head as long as the numbers aren’t too big, but surely teenagers should be able to take a 40-minute half, know that 24 minutes have been played, do 40-minus-24, and know that they have a minimum of 16 minutes to be played, do that complex calculation in their heads without using a calculator?

And maybe they could, if they weren’t allowed to use calculators until they master their sums?

Sigh.

Winnipeg’s Tom Jackson will be formally installed this morning as the 10th chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough.

Yes, his on-line bio says he lives elsewhere now, but when you’re being parochial......

The singer/actor/activist succeeds astronaut/physician/photographer Dr. Roberta Bondar.

Every year when we decorate our Yule tree we have Jackson’s Huron Carole CD playing on our ancient stereo. And now here he is, chancellor at Trent U, home of Excalibur volleyball.

For all Jackson’s achievements, I keep picturing him as Billy Twofeathers in Shining Time Station, maybe because that wonderful little program was so cherished in our house when the kids were a certain age. Though I could never quite figure out how the Island of Sodor could have maybe 300 people living in Miss Marple villages, yet have a passenger train network greater than all of Europe combined. But I digress.

Alas, I won’t be at today’s ceremony when Jackson officially becomes Trent chancellor, but will be there next June at convocation when Jackson gives child the elder his undergraduate degree.

And moving right along and staying on education, at least for now.......

I got another one of those invitations Monday from a third party inviting us to come into schools and photograph and interview and video any and all children we wish.

OK, let’s try this again.

School divisions have very stringent policies to protect kids from strangers. We qualify as strangers. School divisions protect the privacy of children. If you’re an outside organization or individual doing something in a school, tell the teachers and the principal you’re open to having media present, and let the principal run it by the division communications director, who’ll see if the superintendent is willing to sign off. And if they all agree, then the school requires that parents provide written consent allowing coverage of their child, and the principal or communications director invites us unto the school.

Do all that and we’ll be BFF.

On another topic.......

I was at Canadian Mennonite University — other media will have to tremble with terror of being scooped bigtime, I won’t reveal why I was there — and saw that the vending machine I passed still sells sugar drinks. See, kids, it’s not true that university is so tough that it will make you long to be back in high school.

And I see by The Toronto Star website that Ontario is close to agreeing to teachers’ demands and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to have the teachers work a full shift when full-day kindergarten starts in September of 2010.

Huh?

I’d just assumed there’d be a teacher the whole day, but it seems Ontario had been planning to have a teacher for half a day and an early childhood educator the other half.

In breaking news, Dale Nye, the Providence guy, is moving on to a new job in Steinbach after almost a decade as director of public affairs at Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne.

Nye will be joining Hanover School Division as a TA, while finishing his education degree.

And last week I was chilling with the UM communications staff after the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce meeting, waiting to ask president David Barnard questions I reckoned he wouldn’t answer about what the NDP leadership candidates were promising/threatening on postsecondary education if they win. Go ahead, call me prescient, I can take it.

Anyway, several people came up and commented on my blogging about soccer......so, just to keep my audience happy.......

I had another first last week, first time that I’d had to deal with an ineligible player. This was 12-year-old recreational level, usually officiated by a young teenager, but an adult ref was needed because these two teams had a history between them and there was talk there could be trouble. Which certainly played out.

So, anyway, comes the end of the first half, and team A tells me that team B has an ineligible player never seen before, and Team A believes he’s a competitive-level player from another district. Off I trundle to team B’s bench, and yes, team B certainly had a ringer, though the coach of team B argued that he could pick up any kid from anywhere, as long as he was a year younger.

Just to review the WYSA rules, a team’s guest players are limited to younger players from the same community centre, and competitive players cannot play for a rec team under any circumstances. Guest players must be identified as such, and you can’t use more than three guest players. And you need the permission of a player’s coach before calling up a guest player.

So, this boy was indeed a competitive-level player. He came not just from a different club — not from the same community centre as Team B — but also from a different district in another part of the city. Team B did not identify him as a guest player. I asked his name, and gosh, wouldn’t you know it, team B had somehow forgotten to list him on the scoresheet. Purely inadvertently, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, Team B’s coach lashed out at Team A, accusing it of trying to beat him off the field because it wasn’t capable of winning on the field. I shushed him, and eventually had to order all the adults to stay at their own benches and not to talk to each other.

Anyway, even though the jig was up, I had no authority to remove any player. Teams at that age don’t use player cards, so all I could do was report the situation, and leave it up to my wise superiors in the district referee hierarchy and to WYSA.

And to top it all off, the coach of Team B put the kid back on the field in the second half and I had occasion to issue the boy a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.

So, the outcome.....Team A won the match on the field, and I hear that Team B has now had the match forfeited — which means that not only does Team A get three points in the playoff standings, but Team B, instead of getting zero points, gets docked five points for a forfeit.

And the only ones who were completely happy that evening were the mosquitoes, who absolutely feasted.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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