The foundations of sport, part two

Mark Morgan Roar Rookie

By Mark Morgan, Mark Morgan is a Roar Rookie


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    Sport plays a very significant role in world society and culture, especially in Australian society and culture. Whether it should play such a significant role is debatable.

    Arguably sport provides a useful and more socially acceptable outlet for aggression and competitiveness for participants and is supposed to offer participants the opportunity for development of physical and psychological qualities and that can be beneficial for the more important things in life.

    It is certainly open to question as to whether it is reasonable that many elite participants in sport are paid obscene amounts of money for moving fast in various ways; kicking, hitting or throwing balls with great skill; or performing other sporting skills with excellence, while countless millions starve and, for example, teachers and health workers struggle to make ends meet in many countries.

    Sport arguably also provides spectators with a more socially acceptable outlet for aggression, competitiveness and tribalism and in general terms functions as the ‘opiate of the masses’, replacing religion in this role as originally suggested by Karl Marx.

    I do not propose to directly discuss these issues here, but accept for my purposes that rightly or wrongly participation in and watching sport plays a major role in the modern world and in Australian culture.

    So what are, or should be, the basic foundations of sport? What are the principles and values that should underpin sport in the best interests of the participants and the spectators who watch them?

    Lleyton Hewitt retires from tennis


    The first and overriding principle, total and unswerving observance of the rules of any sport by the participants, has been discussed in a previous piece.

    The second basic foundation of sport is the pact that all serious participants have, or should have, with their sport to always engage in it to the very best of their ability for the full duration of the contest, though I accept that some people may be engaged in sport purely for social or other reasons unrelated to achievement to whom this may not apply.

    This pact applies irrespective of whether the participant or their team are ‘winning’, the significance of the event, what a rival has said about them or any other factor.

    As a swimmer I used to imagine that the place I ‘went to’ mentally and physically from just before a race until the end of the race was a sacred place I called ‘Raceworld’ that demanded nothing less than absolute commitment to giving everything I had every time I visited it. I used to regard it as being ‘disrespectful’ to Raceworld to do anything less and found it almost impossible to do anything less even when there was nothing to be gained from giving 100 per cent – for example, in a heat where I would easily qualify for the final or being a long way ahead in the last leg of a relay.

    Call it ‘Raceworld’, call it ‘Gameworld’, this concept can be applied to any sport. In sports that require physical exertion, giving 100 per cent (not 110 per cent!) primarily means using all the physical energy you have, most sensibly spread evenly across the duration of the event.

    Nick Kyrgios of Australia wipes his face with a towel

    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    In all sports there is a mental component as well, so giving 100 per cent will also include complete focus on executing all the skills of the sport to the best of your ability and, where strategy is relevant, particularly in team sports, constantly thinking where you should be and what you should be doing.

    Whether a sportsperson’s goal is winning, being famous, making money, being selected for a representative team, achieving a particular time or score, beating particular rivals, or anything else, the best way to achieve all of these things is, and their primary motivation should be, to always perform as well as possible no matter what. What more could a sportsperson do?

    Winning is nice, but you don’t need to be ruthlessly competitive with others; you just need to be ruthlessly competitive with the best you are capable of at any particular time. And always doing the best you possibly can allows you to always be satisfied with your performance.

    Of course this approach to sport is the most appropriate one for desirable character development and the learning of beneficial life skills. A sportsperson who always does their best in their sport will be more likely to do their job and any life task to the best of their ability.

    All participants giving 100 per cent physically and mentally is obviously also in the best interests of spectators. They deserve nothing less, especially if they are paying spectators. Supporters of sportspeople or teams are generally reasonably forgiving if ‘their’ competitor or team loses while giving 100 per cent effort in all areas; what justifiably irks sports fans most is seeing ‘their’ competitor or team doing less than that.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • June 19th 2018 @ 6:35am
      Onside said | June 19th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      Mark, like your first piece, you don’t differentiate between amateur and professional.

      One encapsulates many traits you suggest , the other, professional, is a multi trillion
      dollar world wide industry .

      Professional sportspeople must by nature be ruthlessly competitive with others.

      ‘A sportsperson who always does their best in their sport will be more likely to do their
      job and any life task to the best of their ability,’ is a nice sentiment for an amateur, but
      what about a professional sports person, where for many years, sport is their job.

      You mention tax: is a professional sportsperson who pays tax on $100K per annum ,
      any different to the weekend amateur who works in an office and pays tax on $100K
      when both pro sports and office work are fulltime jobs.

      How do you differentiate between say a sporting goods company that must make a
      profit to pay many people , advertise, pay sponsorships, rent,and taxes, and say any
      other commercial company or organisation that must also make a profit to survive.


      • June 20th 2018 @ 11:17am
        Mark Morgan said | June 20th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        I didn’t mention tax.

      • June 20th 2018 @ 11:35am
        Mark Morgan said | June 20th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

        The foundations I speak of don’t require differentiation between amateur and professional. Are you saying that e.g. it is OK to cheat if you are a professional? i.e. profit justifies cheating? I stridently maintain that all stakeholders (in particular the participants and spectators) will ultimately benefit from subscribing to the foundations I support.

      • June 20th 2018 @ 12:01pm
        Mark Morgan said | June 20th 2018 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        …and is I said in my article if a sportsperson’s motivation is to win i.e you want to be “ruthlessly competitive with others”, then your best chance of winning is to always do your best i.e. be “ruthlessly competitive with the best you are capable of at any particular time”.

    • June 19th 2018 @ 1:13pm
      Perry Bridge said | June 19th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

      I gotta say – anyone following sport understands that 100% can’t be given all the time – good players learn to pace themselves, play smarter and not harder and lift at the key moments.

      The old “cometh the moment, cometh the non gender specific competitor”.

      I really only reckon gamblers bleed about the star player rested for the last 10 mins (being saved for next week) and suddenly the margin bets are looking vulnerable……

      • June 20th 2018 @ 11:40am
        Mark Morgan said | June 20th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        I specifically mentioned the need to pace oneself for the duration of any contest or event, but one still can ultimately give 100%, and should do irrespective of one’s goals or any of the other factors I mention.

    • June 21st 2018 @ 7:58pm
      Johnno said | June 21st 2018 @ 7:58pm | ! Report

      Sports plays a major role in OZ society, especially in professional sport even though the pro scene is the tiny minority, they are the ones who are the best and get all the cash which is fair as they are the best.. Nothing wrong with being competitive at the pro level, where it’s mainly all about results not development. And winning at pro level doesn’t matter in warm up tournaments or trials you often will be aware you might lose eg coming back from injury in a trial match or not a major tournament, but your building up to win for the tournaments that do count eg world titles/olympics/major events etc. So in the big events winning is mostly all that counts for the teams or indivdiuals who are the favorites and coming 2nd is a failure which is fine.. I’ve notice the culture of the socceroos is slowly changing at this world cup, many media commontators said after the France game we are now over the goal-setting of just going to the world cup we have to go to the world cup in soccer with the belief of trying to win it and being dissapointed if we don’t.. That causes expectation but big deal, managing pressure and expectation is all part of becoming a champion as opposed to being a choket and not coping with pressure or adversity.. But yes, there is a big disconnect between amatuer and professional sport for all sorts of reasons which is fine, kinds like a huge disconnect between an amatuer theatre club and hollywood movie the disconnect and scene is massively different, same applies to amatuer vs pro sport it’s like being in different worlds.. I mean you never see a statsician recording every play at a social over-35’s soccer match theres no VAR unlike at a world cup.. So the stakes are much bigger at a top level sports event and always have been where winning for the contenders is all that counts not coming 2nd.. Where as in amatuer sport the result winning or losing means nothing as it’s just about fun not about winning…

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