Sport is simple… You find a couple of friends and start playing together. If you do not have any friends you choose an individual sport. If you do have friends you like hanging out with, you get to play a teamsport. Maybe hockey? Lucky you 😉
The next step is you get bored of always playing the same group of friends and you want to get organised to play more and maybe even in more of a competitive way. You find other groups of friends and together create a tournament or a league.
Then you grow up, start a family and your wife/husband starts complaining you do not spend enough time with her/him and your kids anymore. Sounds familiar? So you start a club where you all come together with your own team of friends to play your hockey and you ask others to do the same so you can all play together and each other. And together you have lots of fun playing your sport and enjoy being among family and friends.
Fun is contagious
Fun is contagious though. So before you know it your club grows. The other clubs grow as well and some people volunteer to help organise these games, tournaments and leagues. That’s when you get associations or federations taking care of things. When more people get involved some will continue to play just for fun, others more competitively. Some only now and then, others every week, etc… You get the gist. Catering to different needs keeps it fun for all. So more of your friends want to join. The clubs grow and so does the association. Getting things organised becomes a bigger job and the volunteers running things get some paid help…
When sport becomes less simple
Now is the time to pay attention because things are becoming more complicated, less simple… Now we’re mixing people just having fun and people getting paid to do a job. Never an easy combo. You need to set clear guidelines what are priorities or the people getting paid take over with their own agenda. After all, they have an interest in protecting their job. So make sure the priorities remain simple: organise the sport in such a way it is and remains fun, sustainable, inclusive, accessible and according to the values of fair play promoting a healthy “mens sana in corpore sano” lifestyle.
Let’s be very clear that all activities performed by people running the sport are focussed on this one and only priority. Meaning all these other goals and activities associations (national or international) tend to develop are contributing in a measurable (!) way to the original goal. To be clear…entertaining fans is not the goal, it is a means to an end. You will find a lot of people in (inter)national associations telling you getting TV deals, entertaining fans, growing the number of followers on their social media accounts is the way to run the sport. It is not ! I’m not saying it has no value. It does… but let’s never stop asking if it adds to people starting or continuing to play the sport. While we’re at it… Sport is not about making a living or to be used to get a free education. If you can make some money from it, go for it… But that is not the original goal. The goal of sport is to have fun with friends and family and add to a healthy, happy life.
Let’s keep it simple
If you ask me… You need a lot (really a lot) of people watching the sport to find one willing to pick up the stick and play it. You need a lot less people (and resources) to convince a friend to come and join you for a training or friendly game and give it a go. I would know where to invest time, energy and resources… Let’s keep it simple.
Now ask yourself… Are the people running my sport focussed on the number one priority? Or is it time we hold them accountable for the choices they make and make sure we once again focus on the real goal of sport?