Traditionally, the English do sport well. Lord’s, Twickenham, Wimbledon; we’ve got them all and we sure know how to put on a show. We might not always come out on top, but we play with a strong sense of self.
We are the nation that invented Rugby; that put croquet on the map; that came up with cricket. Partaking in some of the world’s most important sports is something that every gentleman should aspire to do, regardless of your ability. Remember, gentlemen: it’s the taking part that counts.
First played by nomadic warriors in central Asia over two thousand years ago, and modified into a sport for the British aristocracy by nineteenth-century cavalry officers, polo is considered to be the oldest team sport. The ‘sport of kings’ has been growing in popularity and accessibility in recent years, and is currently played in 77 countries, although the undeniable leaders in the field are Britain, Argentina and the US.
Whilst the thought of eight men waving wooden mallets charging at each other on horseback might be enough to put off some, the pure, adrenaline fuelled thrill guaranteed by the fast and furious interplay of sportsmanship and aggression is more than enough of a temptation to switch from treading in the divots, to making them.
It may not be top of the thrill-seekers list, but the satisfaction of a good game of croquet should not be underestimated. Offering universal appeal, and exchanging the demonstration of brute strength for that of skill and strategic thinking, without forfeiting exposure to the great outdoors and man-on-man competition.
It’s a social sport too; less running around means more time for conversation, and the fact that fitness isn’t a high priority means that the prospect of a post-game afternoon tea is more than just wishful thinking.
Tennis is a sport instilled deep in the heart of the British people, and rightly so. Synonymous with pure determination, dexterity and elegance, it is not a sport that is confined merely to the dimensions of a court. Its enduring influence over culture and style is undeniable, and the enthusiasm which experts and amateurs and casual spectators alike follow grand slam results is second to none.
What gentleman doesn’t aspire to follow in the footsteps of stars such as René Lacoste and Fred Perry? Similarly, June marks the start of summer and the much anticipated Wimbledon championships, too.
A game of cricket is a quintessentially British summer ritual. The oldest spectator sport has it’s own understanding of time, designed for the leisure patterns of the gentleman of an elapsed era, yet perhaps the extent to which it is steeped in such tradition is part of it’s charm. There are no two ways about it, gentlemen, the national sport of England is one that should be a part of your repertoire.
Flying a plane
This one might seem a little more intimidating than those which take place within the safe confines of a carefully mown pitch, but who would turn down the opportunity to take to the skies under their own command? A skill that few can lay claim to, it is one that truly marks out a gentleman.
Well-worn jokes about golfers’ fashion sense aside, the ability to play a round of golf is something that no gentleman should be without. Its universal appeal and steadier pace means that it is not just a sport, but to many an increasingly valuable networking tool.
With a surprisingly turbulent history, the origins of golf as we know it are usually traced to 15th Century in Scotland, where it was banned for several years due to interfering with archery practice. And more recently, the gentleman’s sport made a comeback at the Rio Olympics, for the first time in 112 years. Still not convinced? Then take a look at some of the most spectacular golf courses out there.
Not for the faint hearted, this is something any self-proclaimed ‘petrol head’ ought to have some experience in. Simply spending as much time as possible in the fast lane of the motorway isn’t enough, take to the racetrack to test out your gear stages in true style. It may make the M25 on a Sunday night seem that bit more depressing, but we needn’t tell you, it’s well worth it for the experience.
Sailing, doing it properly at least, requires not just strength and skill but an understanding of the elements to bend the wind and water to do your bidding using just a couple of pieces of canvas and some ropes. Whether yachts or catamarans are your style, there’s nothing better than the feeling of skimming across the waves with the sea air in your face for gaining a little perspective on life.
If hair raising speed, precision, daring and a partiality to a large midday lunch break are character traits that you can lay a claim to, and you are yet to try skiing, welcome to a whole new obsession. There’s something completely incomparable about giving way to gravity and whizzing down from dizzying heights, nothing but you and a solid mass of mountain.
It was actually the British sense of adventure that first realised this, seeing the chance to take traditional long-distance skiing to greater altitude and velocity. The combination of winter holiday and extreme sport is one hard to beat, and the chosen pastime of countless gentlemen; from David Beckham to Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Learning to fence might not have the practical value of bygone days, but there aren’t many opportunities in the modern day for gentlemen to pick up a weapon and pit themselves against each other in an amalgamation of violence and long-established chivalry.
With an image as synonymous with the romanticism of bygone days as it is with masterful aptitude and coordination, fencing is a worthwhile and impressive addition to any gentleman’s repertoire.