Are all sports equal in their contribution to society?

January 21, 2015

The Lab started the year with a school excursion to the Australian Open!

You know us, we are always on and thinking.  Yes, we can admit it.  Collectively we have a problem with switching off…  If you ever tested the office for ADHD traits we would probably all over index.

So whilst watching, we started talking about the impact sport has on society.  What does playing and watching sport teach us?

We came to the conclusion that sport gives back in multiple ways.

1. It teaches resilience… ability to pick ourselves up and move on in the face of hardship and loss.

2. It inspires action… the dual benefits of igniting people's drive to reach their potential through watching firsthand the wonder of the human body in action and simply encouraging people to do more sport. 

3. It encourages teamwork… heroes selflessness; sometimes success can be giving up the spotlight for the overall success of your team.  It unites people around a common goal and passion. 

So this kindled a rather fiery debate amongst Labsters about whether individual sports showcase these values to the same extent as team sports.  But don't worry, we were all good sports about it!

1. We all agreed, all sports teach resilience.  All require you to start and learn, practice and perfect.  A part of this is accepting that you won’t be great to begin with but to use an overused saying ‘practice makes perfect’.  Even those who have reached the peak of their discipline, there is always the potential for loss.  Just ask Federer and Nadal… 

There were some that thought tennis was a sport where mental resilience was even more important. Success is driven equally by physical strength, as it is by mental; it’s a battle of will and body, especially when you are matched with an equal nemesis who demands you to stay strong over five hours of play.

2. All have the power to inspire action.  Some you might say are better than others and there is an argument that personality plays a crucial role.  Engagement and accessibility can be a huge factor in igniting passion in the average punter.

We can see tennis changing in these areas.  Its heritage is one of elitism and therefore not a sport open to all, but things have changed dramatically.  The Australian Open has led the way in this area: we have bright blue courts, there are no restrictions on what the players wear and Australia was the first to adopt the third umpire appeals.  Now, our favourite tennis player sports a Mohawk and swears like a trooper.

3. Now the sticky point…TEAMWORK.

Let’s pretend doubles doesn’t exist for the moment.

Obviously there is no teamwork, on the court, in singles.  The player never has to give up the spotlight. So what can the individual game of tennis teach you in this area, and are these lessons equal to those learnt through team sport?

Where we got to was that Tennis is a ‘collective’ sport.  We believe teamwork exists, behind the scenes, especially their coach who’s job it is to help them reach their full potential.  There is a secondary element. The audience.  They are part of the player’s team when they hit the court. They cheer the player on; they feel every loss and every win, they rally (yes, I did go there) around the player.  The player’s prowess lifts their spirits and equally dashes them.  Just watch the interplay between the crowd and the player. Just look at the crowd’s reaction to Kyrgios. He admitted that the crowd got him through, helping him come back from match point and win against Seppi.

Yes, the fans don’t have the sole decision-making power, but they are still giving themselves to the game and the player giving themselves to the crowd.  They feed off each other, support each other and create a great game.  You hear the interaction equally through the silence, a pause in a moment of tension and the roar of the crowd when the right person wins. 

There is a huge amount of control asked of the crowd.  A request is made for silence, you need to be selfless, don’t leave the arena during play, leave that chitter chatter for the right moment and, whatever you do, don’t crunch that chip as the player is throwing the ball into the air.  Distraction can determine the outcome of a point.  And the players will call you on your lack of consideration and teamwork.  Kyrgios did it in the Seppi match.  He turned to the crowd and called them out rather emphatically on the fact that they had not played their part in the game. 

You might say multiple beers fuelled the debate, but it was a fun debate nonetheless.  We’ll leave you to ponder this and decide, maybe fight it out with your friends and see what you think…. but don’t say we didn’t warn you.