The past few weeks have been a troublesome time for sport, for example:
- Maria Sharapova was found to be using illegal substances
- Manny Pacquiao was dropped from Nike sponsorship after homophobic slurs
- Female tennis players being told to get on their knees
One topic that particularly caught my eye was the more grassroots issue of concussion and young people playing full contact rugby. Colleagues of mine contributed to a request to parliament that this should be a priority area to research, as medically the sport of rugby could be detrimental to those youngsters playing full contact. This raises the classic conundrum of why do people play sport? And why sport is crucial to individuals or society? Especially with such potential of negative consequences and scandals.
On the one hand, sport spreads values and skills of- fair play, honour, team work, leadership and communication… the list could go on. On the other hand, as with all human endeavours there are numerous instances of failings- cheats, discrimination, pain, injury and corruption…again the list could go on.
For me to answer this conundrum is to embrace both the good and bad consequences of sport. My PhD will allow me to delve further into such debate. But this blog piece is less about my wider research, and more my personal experience. I have been defined by sport throughout my life- whether that is playing, coaching, spectating, working or generally being in a sporting environment.
A very tangible way to show this is in my brand new quilt. Over two years ago I cut up a lot of t-shirts. I had acquired them through years of adventures (mostly around sport) and inspired by Diane Saunders thought this would make a great quilt. Thank fully, after some cumbersome attempts to actually sew this together, my mums’ amazingly talented friend Michelle Clark- Bear actually achieved the feat. Firstly, a massive shout out to Michelle for doing this, it is absolutely magnificent and a lifelong treasure.
Secondly, the experiences and stories contained within these t-shirts are a road map of how I have interacted with sport and met a great number of people. It is these memories that encapsulate for me personally, both the negative and positives of what sport has to offer. My point being sport is played up (excuse the pun) as such a pivotal mechanism to empower and teach. But, this cannot be done in the blind innocence to what the environment of sport exposes you to at any level and any age. It provides a space for: positive and negative, good and bad, empowering and disempowering, success and failure, fair and unjust, equal and discriminatory, among other circumstances. All of which contribute to your personal quilt.
I have been incredibly fortunate to meet within these t-shirts thousands of people… including guests when I was a chalet host in a ski resort in Europe, numerous team mates on several teams, hundreds of campers when I was camp counsellor in America. A diverse range of how sport has been sewn into my life.
Am I perfect person or citizen because of this, no, absolutely not!
I have rather a lot of evolving strengths and weaknesses. What sport has allowed for me, is the ability to express and understand the particular quirks I possess. Especially, when you share or observe others having different relationships with sport.
This is not to say I would defend Maria Sharapova, Manny Pacquiao, tennis prize money equality, or that a youngster should play full contact rugby. Rather, I relate to those individuals and those issues that have both positive and negative consequences. This is why sport is so crucial, it represents the constant contradictions and difficulties we face in life. Sport can act as vehicle to illustrate and develop understanding of life, for both individuals (in this case my quilt) and on a more academic level (in this case my PhD [hopefully]).