Sport in 2018: Human, Canine and Virtual

2018 is going to be another year of outrageous, expensive and laudable sporting endeavours. In the early part of the year the Winter Olympics will be hosted by South Korea and then in the summer the FIFA World Cup is heading to Russia. Yet, for me the two stand out events will be canine and virtually based.

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1998 Supreme Champion 

Firstly, Crufts ‘the world’s greatest dog show.’ I had to defend myself during a second year undergraduate seminar earlier in December when I, proudly, declared that one of my most influential early sporting moments was attending Crufts. In the seminar there was absolute uproar “Crufts is not a sport, it is a hobby” and “it is not a sport because it is about dogs, not people.” Does sport have to be about human endeavour? I argued no, the rich history of using animals (horses, dogs, birds amongst other animals) goes back for centuries, if not millennia if you include the Ancient worlds. Crufts, last year, celebrated its 125 year anniversary having started out in 1891. The presence of events, such as, Crufts who function differently to other popular human sports have a historic connection to culture and lifestyle in the United Kingdom. The spectacle takes place in Birmingham at the NEC in March and televised (mostly likely on Channel Four) or on a YouTube livestream. The recent expansion to using the digital platform of YouTube links to the second stand out event of the year, the Asian Games.

The Asian Games are not particularly well documented or reported in the UK media as it is a non-western regional sporting event, yet this year it has garnered increasing attention due to the inclusion of eSports (a form of competition using video games). In April 2017 the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) partnered with Alisports (the sports arm of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba) to have eSports as a demonstration sport in 2018 and an official medal sport in the 2022 iterations of the Asian Games. The long term goal will be to push the argument that eSports could feature in the Olympic Games, part of the wider ambition of engaging with younger global populations. Reported in the Guardian, the OCA said the decision to include eSports in the 2018 Asian Games reflects “the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.” In contrast to Crufts a bastion of the traditional and historic connections to sport and canines, eSports is an evolution of connection between sport and the virtual world. Is it the future of international sporting opportunities?

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The International, a Dota 2 tournament that is played annually at the KeyArena in Seattle

2018 will be an interesting year to how traditional and contemporary sporting events will be represented in the media, viewed by audiences and supported by sponsors, organisations and governments. The decision on the 19th December to award Birmingham the Commonwealth Games in 2022 – which has a preliminary public budget of one billion pounds – sparks the question of what sports will feature in 2022? Old or new. Virtual, human or animal based. At the turn of a new calendar year who knows what the next 12 months will hold!

Happy New Year all,

VPos

Lanterns on Planes: Halloween or Winter Olympics?

 

Today, 31st October, is Halloween. It also, marks the day that the Olympic Flame travels to Pyeongchang, South Korea and the 100 day countdown to the next edition of the Winter Olympic Games. The Games are scheduled to take place from 9th to 25th February, 2018. They will be followed by the Paralympics, which are due to be held from 8th to 18th March, 2018. But, for me the next 100 days could entail some ‘tricks and treats’ for the hosts and Olympic organisations.

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Currently, ticket sales for the events are not going too well, with reports this week that the Paralympics have sold less than 5% and the Olympics have sold just over 30%. According to Inside the Games, “low ticket sales are being blamed on the poor promotion of Pyeongchang 2018, the first edition of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games ever be held in South Korea.” But, I think that is shying away from a couple of other larger issues in and around the Olympics and South Korea currently.

Firstly, geopolitically, South Korea does not appear to be the most sensible destination to travel to. The history between North and South Korea is complicated and the current unrest between North Korea and the USA suggests the Games could be vulnerable. The Olympic Games is not a stranger to wider political issues, for example, the 1980 boycott by the USA around the Cold War or the pressures of Apartheid and South African international sport participation. Consequently, to ignore the geopolitical events of Brexit negotiations, Trump or nuclear advancements since the Summer Olympics in Rio 2016, would be remiss.

Secondly, the simmering and recurring issue for the International Olympic Committee and wider elite sporting community is – doping and should Russia compete? The International Paralympic Committee have continued to take a hard line against Russia due to the state-sponsored doping scandal through sanctions. However, we will find out in December whether or not Russia will be allowed to compete in the Games. The continuing cloud of doping vs. banning the country that hosted the last Winter Olympics (Sochi 2014) and came top of both the Olympic and Paralympic medal tables (33 medals and 80 medals) is a precarious decision for the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee.

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Now, I am not suggesting that the lack of ticket sales are directly attributable to geopolitical or doping based issues. But, what I do think is evident is the Winter Olympics are not receiving as much  coverage, attention or build up due to wider issues that fill up the media or strategy of organisations and nations. Although the Olympic Flame is on its way to South Korea, I think it is no coincidence it travels on Halloween. Next February and March may well have some ‘tricks and treats’ for the hosts and the International Olympic committee!

VPos

 

 

Transatlantic Pigskin: NFL, London and Considering my Knee

The closest I get to a UK national sporting anthem is Oasis ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger,’ consequently, from a personal perspective I am not too sure what to make of the current NFL fall out over kneeling, unity, Trump and the 32 NFL franchises (this link is a great take on the situation though). Beyond the national anthem debacle, however, the fall out has made the idea of a NFL franchise based in London much more significant – especially – as Spurs continue to accommodate an NFL pitch into their new ground.

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I am going to one of the International Series this weekend at Wembley between the Saints and Dolphins. Firstly, should I take a knee; and secondly and less personally, can and should the UK embrace an American sporting institution here in Britain?

Spurs New Pitch

Briefly, here are a couple of perspectives I have considered:

Economic – depends on who you ask, the government (in 2014) thinks so, Daniel Levy at Spurs thinks so. In the current climate of Brexit, it would also appear to make a lot of sense. Yes, to the franchise.

Tourism – does London need to be more global? Arguably a new franchise would add another global sports team and brand, but with multiple teams already vying in that market the NFL may further muddy the waters. Also, from a domestic perspective and as a Rugby League fan would a new sport using an oval ball further impede on an already saturated oval ball market? No, to the franchise.

Environmental – that is a lot of fuel. I am not too clued up on my environmental knowledge, but for me this must be a factor and ethically make sense. So, if the franchise could be carbon neutral and not a pure environmentally disregarding endeavour then yes. But until I know more, not sure, to the franchise.

Socio-cultural – the #TakeAKnee showcases for me how the UK and America share a number of socio-cultural commonalities, such as, the English language; but there are huge gulfs in our social and cultural practices, such as, differences over when the national anthem is played or flag is honoured (or putting ‘u’ in words). Would an international sports franchise balance these? Not sure, to the franchise (plus, a research project in there somewhere as well).

Political – do I need to say anything else, other than, 140 characters here? As in the current war of words over Twitter, between the NFL and President Trump, shows it is a tricky time for American Football right now. Moreover, the special relationship is on new ground with the current international strategies of both the UK and America. It is politically both an opportunity and threat for me, therefore, not sure, to the franchise.

Sporting – a large scale franchise that could balance the soccer heavy London market and carve up new opportunities, which could be beneficial. But, as I stated in the tourism point this could, also, hoover up prospective supporters, volunteers and sponsorship etc. for UK based sports. Finally, would we start teaching American Football in schools? Potentially through my Rugby League bias, I would say no, to the franchise.

As ever, and as ever historically, sport is playing a role in both an active and passive way during this unprecedented situation – unprecedented in the potential permanent international franchise, but also unprecedented within the current UK and American economic, social and political climates. Considering, briefly, multiple perspectives I am a mixture of no, yes and not sure, so rather uselessly no closer to a definitive view!

Alas, my more immediate concern is for Sunday, do I take a knee? Based on my views and perspectives I may abstain and hum an Oasis song instead…

VPos

Writer’s Block: I’m Selfish, Impatient and a Little Insecure!

For the first time in my short blogging career I am not sure what to write about and do not really have the inspiration to write. Quite surprising since it is the ‘summer’ so my student status must mean I have oodles of time; plus, there is plenty to be chatting about (cough women’s football cough), alas, nothing.

Is it okay?

I think an underappreciated skill of writing, in my view, is knowing when to take a break, take a few steps back and be okay about having writer’s block.

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So, this month instead of blogging about anything in particular. I am going to comb through the internet for useful guides, posts and shared thoughts on the old writer’s block. Here are my top 5:

  • Time tracking – mytomatoes.com is the best website that is free and easy to create an account. It times, tracks and logs 25 minutes of work and 5 minute breaks.
  • Helpful articles with hints and tips – The Guardian­ ­here describes some real gems, such as, social writing or setting realistic goals. Although obvious, I like reading about writer’s block every so often.
  • Grammar websites – grammar is by far one of my biggest weaknesses and often messes up my flow and confidence of writing. Grammatology, amongst other, websites and tools give kind reminders of, for example, where the bloody hell to use a comma.
  • Pintrest – I think often sharing with friends and family about writer’s block can be futile as they cannot relate or attempt to solve rather than listen; so pintrest acts as virtual and never ending community of sharing thoughts.
  • British Library EThOS – the BL is great. The function here allows you to search all public PhD thesis’ and read for free. I like reading these as this kindly reminds me that everyone starts somewhere…

Finally, an extra sneaky one, that is the killer idea of, exercise. Incredibly appropriate for this blog, but, I do think that exercise and, in particular, exercise where you can ‘switch off’ helps a lot.

Alas, even with: timing tools, shared articles, virtual communities, grammar tips, reading other thesis’ and going for the occasional run… this month of August has not been the one. I still need to work on when to take a break, steps back or realising that other things can impact on my writing and it is okay to be blocked. Maybe this will come with age and maturity, but to be honest, I think my writing alter ego is illustrated quite wonderfully by this fantastic Marilyn Monroe quote…

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Back to it for September, obviously.

VPos

Thinking – the Process of Considering or Reasoning about Something

The past month I have been rather reflective to how I have survived the MPhil/PhD process so far. It has been triggered by a number of things:

  • Moving house and inevitably having to clear through those piles of papers and collectables that you ‘put’ for safe keeping but never file away (now in boxes or a collage);
  • My pride over a colour coded, A3 printed and formal GANTT chart for June to December 2017;
  • A Ted Talk about ‘the surprising habits of original thinkers’ by Adam Grant.

Now, I am definitely not making a statement here, that I am an original thinker or particular an efficient thinker. But, I have come across 3 moments since October 2015 (start of my PhD) where I have presented my thinking in very different ways. I am going to reflect on them one by one, then connect how it gives me confidence for the upcoming final (yes, final) fully funded year of my PhD.

Blog July _ Thinking

  1. October 2015 – Collage

A collage right at the beginning of my PhD represents a daunted me who wanted to put down thoughts and ideas about what I wanted my ‘research project’ to look like. But, with a fear of not being good enough or academic enough I grabbed magazines, a glue stick and put together an assortment of arrows.

  1. September 2016 – Conference Poster

Nearly a year in, I was getting quite cocky and put together my first academic poster to present down at the University of Chichester. This thinking involved my preliminary PhD plan and a lot of loosely connected references. It was the first time I tried to ‘fit’ thinking into something an external reader could understand.

  1. June 2017 – GANTT Chart

Role into 2017 and in April I passed my RDB2 ‘transfer’ where I had submitted a written piece and presented orally my project to date, then post an interview with an external reviewer I was deemed PhD worthy or not. The Gantt chart represents two months of formally transforming the RDB2 thinking into an actual to do list. More based on time than ideas and something I can use from now til December as a benchmark.

In my reflection this month I realise that I have travelled from abstract thinking (collage), to educated guess thinking (poster), to reality thinking (gantt chart) and demonstrate possibly the most difficult skill of a PhD – progressing from thinking to doing. The Ted Talk discusses the utility of procrastinating and giving space to think, which I certainly have done, as I am 21 months in and now using the F word (finish). I definitely needed the earlier thinking stages to progress through to doing.

Why is this useful for anyone other than me and my brain?! It is useful to any other research student that has the normal and frequent fear of… am I thinking enough; am I thinking too much; how and when to present and use such thinking. My answer would be to share and reflect. Everyone does it differently, but the better you know how you think yourself… then surely you can become ‘better’ at it?! Or maybe it is not that mechanical and by Christmas I shall be collaging using magazines again…?!

VPos

p.s.

Rosie Plimmer (Researcher Development Officer, University of Worcester) of course I am also using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework to formally document this!

 

Research students celebrate conference success

Research students celebrate conference success

A review of the Postgraduate Research Conference at the University of Worcester 2017. A lot can be done when great minds come together and work as a team. Thank you to all those that supported the 2017 committee, a pleasure to be a part of it.

VPos

Res Dev @ Worc

The University of Worcester hosted the Postgraduate Research Conference: ‘Seeds of Knowledge’ on Thursday 29th June, at the Hive. The day attracted over 100 registrations; there were 20 oral presentations and 25 poster presentations throughout the day – represented by a range of Worcester and external postgraduate researchers. The whole conference was opened by Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sarah Greer, who spoke eloquently about the value of research, being a research student and her sage advice about being a researcher. The crowd nodded in agreement when Sarah expressed the need for academic generosity, and a day such as the conference is a perfect example of such. With a warm and encouraging tone set for the day it was a jam packed schedule with 5 oral sessions – ranging from – ‘body and mind’ to ‘history and literature’ to ‘physical and mental health.’ In the middle and sandwiched around lunch…

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One Year On: Busy Fool or Better Networker?

In July last year I blogged about ‘The Art of Networking: Drawing Upon my Month of Travels.’ It is very much a running joke with my colleagues that I am a conference princess, who seems to attend more in one year than most people do in a decade! However, in 2017 I have learnt from some mistakes the past few years and in attending (a scaled back amount) of events I have done two key things differently:

  • Better use of twitter… I use twitter a lot to disseminate and share, but this year I have used it as my primary follow up tool. To me it is redundant, to an extent, to give out an email address or business card. As realistically you will use it when you actively want or need something off the person you meet. Whereas, twitter offers a space to connect and stay up to date in a passive manner, then when the moment arises you can start a dialogue with the person or organisation you had met. So, I am much better now at adding on twitter during a session or conversation as a way of connecting.

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  • Feed forward… I am certainly now very well versed in filling out feedback forms, but actually it is more valuable to feed forward. In particular, using the time straight after a conference to make notes, write a blog, or email round to colleagues any nuggets that they might find useful. Two examples to demonstrate that are the blog I wrote for the Sport and Recreation Alliance in May after their ‘Sports Summit.’ Then the blog I wrote for the Open Forum Events around the ‘Standards in Sport: Ethics, Integrity and Governance’ this past week. Not only does this hone my writing skills, it also gives me a way to keep better records and better dissemination of what I got from the events.

Hopefully now instead of mincing round conferences and events like a busy fool, I can begin to better utilise the networks, information and notes that I collect along the way. Who knows when they will be useful in the future, but better to have it all logged than in a notebook somewhere!

VPos

p.s. huge shout out to the dream team that organised the University of Worcester Postgraduate Conference yesterday, it turns out I am good at organising as well as attending!