I have played a lot of sport in my life. Most of it pretty badly and with more enthusiasm than ability, but I like to think that at least in a couple of sports I have done pretty well (Hint: The way to win a national championship is to pick a sport that not many other people play. The way to win national championships in two sports is to pick two sports that not many people play.You get the picture). I have also formed some of the longest lasting and deepest friendships with people on, around or after playing sport. And being someone who will talk ad nauseum about just about anything, needless to say many of my conversations revolve around sport (Stand up the Friday Sports Club) and as is my want, I have done some thinking about this too.
All my sporting idols are people who (appear) to play the game for the love of it, with more talent in their left toenail than the rest of us have in our entire bodies and who have a certain style, grace and panache for what they do. My heroes include Jean Baptiste Lafond, RameshKrishnan and many others. OK, so many of our heroes come from our youth (What is it they say? “The older I get, the better I used to be”- maybe that also applies to our minds eye of sporting ability) but I see a trend in sports today (at least top level sport) that confirms the belief that the magic is disappearing and it is all becoming a business.
Take for example a quote from the current coach of the Wales national rugby team: “when you take the field, it’s about performing at your optimum. It’s about trying to be error-free.” Now I absolutely agree with the first part- no point turning up to play if you are hungover (the days of cricketers being so drunk that they forget to bring a bat with them seem to be long gone), but using “trying to be error free” as a mantra? Surely you should be encouraging people to ‘out perform the opposition’, ‘be inventive’, ‘do what you do best’ etc etc
The same line is spouted time after time by NHL hockey players: “We need to work harder”, “we need to pull together” etc. You never hear anything along the lines of “we need to practice our skills so that next time the opposition won’t know what to do”. And I think that is a shame.
I could go on (and on) with this, but I’ll leave it there for now. I think I might return to this later