Archive for the ‘Purpose of Sport’ Category

I came across this via twitter and specifically @ToddDevlin so thanks Todd for the heads up. All I know about Mike Nellis (@96Nellis) is that he’s in his last year at Colonel By SS in Ottawa and is a budding baseball/sports journalist. When I read his article it struck me that this was a young man remembering that there is a reason why we participate in sports in the first place. It’s a very important thing to remember and I thought you said it very well Mike. And you also hit on a point I’ve made several times before on this blog – that fun is actually an integral part of being your best. Thanks for letting me repost it here…


by Mike Nellis

Sport is a very intriguing animal. It was originally designed as a way for people to stay in shape and have fun, but it has since evolved into something much more – a competitive “game” that is taught with a tone that sets the bar very high for young athletes, in turn having an effect that took its toll on me.

As a kid, I took hockey very seriously. I’d become frustrated and let emotions get the best of me in losing or negative situations – this became apparent to me as a 2nd year Bantam as I started to understand something; that hockey and sports in general are for the point of having fun. The problem with that is while I was aware of my problem, I was unable to do anything to fix the problem on my own.

Once I was in my Minor Midget year, I was contemplating quitting the game at around 1/3rd of the way through the season, because I was no longer having fun on the ice. I was ridiculously hard on myself and found that I was in increasingly worse moods after coming home from the arena.

Something had to be done in order for me to continue with hockey. So after seeing a sports psychologist, I decided to come into my 2nd year of Midget with a different attitude. An attitude that’s less intense – if something negative happens, then so be it. I also dropped down from competitive to house league, which put me playing with a lot more friends that I grew up playing with. All in all, it was a good year that resulted in a trip to the league semis.

This year, my team has played 4 league games, so far going 1-2-1 – although we’re a much better team than our record indicates (cliche, I know). Our one tie came against Russell, a game I played after being on the ice for 5 straight hours of refereeing, with about 9 or 10 blisters on my feet.

Thinking about it, I played the best game that I have in the past 3 to 4 years, and had the most fun playing the game in that 3 or 4 year span as well – to top it off, I scored the game-tying goal with about 4 minutes to go.

With my new attitude, this could be the best year of hockey that I ever play when it comes to attitude and bonding. There is the lingering pressure of being a leader as I am a 3rd-year player on the Gloucester Centre Midget A team, but instead of worrying about it, I’m embracing it and adding it into the balance that makes hockey so fun for me these days.

“I played the best game that I have in the past 3 to 4 years, and had the most fun playing the game in that 3 or 4 year span as well.”

Everyone should have this attitude. Not only for their last few years of hockey like myself, but with every sport they play and every year that they play it. From personal experience I can say that it makes the whole idea of playing sports so much more appealing. The tricky part is adding a competitive element to this attitude and balancing it out.

If I end up coaching a hockey team in the next few years, I’ll let the players know that they have to be enjoying the sport that they play. If they find themselves playing for reasons other than fun or with too much negativity, they need to find an alternative way of thinking. Don’t quit a game that you’ve attached yourself to – or at least don’t quit right away – try to find a way that’ll make you be giddy to hit the field/court/rink.

If more people followed this philosophy, I think that there would be much less of a negative opinion of competitive sport within society.

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Here’s a story about a hockey player that had to play in net for the Erie Otters when both the regular and backup goalie’s were unavailable.  It isn’t a story about a great performance but it is about guts and being a good teammate.  For all those who would tell you otherwise, sport isn’t about winning, it’s about giving it your best shot.  The reality is that for some, their best isn’t that competitive, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of a standing ovation and a first star selection.  Thanks for the link Ted.


ST. CATHARINES, ONT.—It was a game Connor Crisp will never forget.

After allowing 13 goals on 46 shots for the Erie Otters on Sunday, he was named the first star.

The 17-year-old centre — who hadn’t played at all this season, following shoulder surgery — was never supposed to play net. But he got pressed into action as an emergency replacement when starting goalie Ramis Sadikov was injured in the opening minutes of a 13-4 victory by the Niagara IceDogs.

“Well, I’m a road hockey goalie, ball hockey goalie, but that’s the first time I’ve put on goalie equipment and played on ice since I was 5 years old,” said Crisp.

Here’s a link to the rest of the Canadian Press story: http://tinyurl.com/7rzowmx

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“To deserve success is more important than to achieve it.”  Lester B. Pearson

What is the point of sport?  Why do we compete?  Is it to win or is it to give it your best shot?

If you ask a parent who gets their child involved in sport it’s more about health, fitness, socialization, learning life’s lessons and maybe more than anything else, it’s about having fun!  Of course things change as that child gets older and sport becomes more competitive.  At some point a decision is made and a path is chosen to either play “for fun” or to try to get to the next level.  There are always exceptions but whichever path is chosen, you could make a strong argument that sport still provides each and every quality that inspires a parent to sign their child up for organized sport in the first place.

And yes, I would include fun in that list.  And the reason I would is because it takes an immense amount of work to reach the top level in sport (or any endeavor for that matter) and so you have to be doing something you love to do.  There is plenty of research showing just how much work it takes to reach the master level of any given skill and that’s why you have authors from so many areas, from sport to business to education to the arts, all talking about a love for what you do.

In any competitive environment, the higher you get, the higher the stakes, and this can sometimes cloud why we participate in the first place.  Is winning more important at the highest level of sport?  Yes.  Especially in professional sport, coaches and managers are hired and fired, athletes are moved to other teams or cut altogether because winning drives the finances and therefore the viability of a team.  But can we do more than give it our best shot?  No.  That’s why it’s called our best shot.  Ultimately does winning have anything to do with it?  Sure, but I believe it’s more accurate to say that it’s not about winning, so much as it’s about trying to win.

The reality is that there can only be one winner.  If you’re competing in something like a marathon with potentially thousands of other runners and you’re good enough to finish, which is a significant physical accomplishment, are you going to be disappointed if you don’t win?  If you come second in a marathon or the Olympics or a creative writing competition for that matter are you the first loser?  There are those who would say so but if it were true, why would anyone participate in the first place?  To quote a number of eminent sport psychologists, if it was just about winning, wouldn’t we look for the easiest competition?

It has to be about more than just winning.  It has to also be about the challenge (see 2. Emulating Gregor Staehli) and trying to win.  In fact, it’s about trying to win to the extent that there are many examples in sport of athletes who are close to the top in a given competition and fail dramatically trying to reach the very top. You see it in skiing all the time, especially in the technical events.  At the end of the first run, if you’re a second or two off the lead, you might as well go for it.  Some move up significantly in the standings and occasionally someone might come from a ways back to get onto the podium.  More often than not however, people crash or at very least take themselves out of the running.

Is there any shame in that?  Not in the least.  In fact I’d say the opposite is true.  I can think of one particular moment at the Vancouver Olympics in which Melissa Hollingsworth (see photo) who was actually sitting in second place going into the last run of the women’s skeleton competition ended up in 5th because she was taking her best shot at winning.  It was heartbreaking to watch but there’s something impressive about the attitude.  She didn’t win but she sure gave it her best shot.

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10. Jim Peplinski

What is the purpose of sport?  Is it to win Olympic medals?  Is it to prove the dominance of a political system?  Or is it ultimately about teaching life lessons and leading a healthier and happier life through physical activity?

I met Jim Peplinski, the former Flames captain almost a year ago now at the announcement of the construction of WinSport’s new Athletic and Ice Complex here in Calgary.  I was asked to give a few comments at the event about the benefits of the centre in terms of generating enthusiasm for sport in the next generation and how that was a benefit to our community as a whole.  Jim approached me after the talk and asked me if I was familiar with a business concept – that your mandate was first and foremost to make your employees happy.  The offshoot of the philosophy was that you had a successful money-making business.  It’s a little bit of a reversal from the usual mandate which is to simply make money.  Jim believes very much that the same philosophy applies to making someone a great athlete – that you first focus on the person and if you can make them a great person, then you are also more likely to make them a great athlete.  Either way you win.

I prodded Jim a little to write down his philosophy in terms that anyone could understand and I’m very grateful that he came up with this…


What is the purpose of sport?

Sport can make people great athletes…


Sport can make athletes great people.

Many people participate in a sport or get their children to participate in sport, invest countless hours and thousands of dollars with a view to becoming a great athlete or raising a great athlete.

This can work.

Is there another objective? A better objective? An objective that can cause you to play longer? An objective that increases your chances of reaching your athletic potential while improving personally through the lessons of sport?

Should we change our thinking on how we coach and approach sport?

If you approached sport with a goal to enjoy what ever sport you chose to participate in, to do your best and enjoy it, would you play longer? Would you be better rounded? Would you get more out of sport? Would you be a better person? And maybe become a great athlete too?

I believe so.

To me sport teaches character. Character is doing what you said you would do when it costs you!

To me sport teaches discipline. Get discipline. Get better. At anything !

To me sport teaches the value of fundamentals. Get great at skating, shooting, passing and you reach a high level in hockey. Get educated, you reach a high level in life.

To me sport teaches the value of health. Look after your body it looks after you.

To me sport teaches commitment.  It is rarely the most talented who succeed. It is regularly the person who does the work and hangs in longest who is rewarded.

To me sport teaches empathy. Know how you teammate feels, instead of only thinking about how you feel.

To me sport teaches performance. Keep score. Measure yourself. Get better.

To me sport teaches mental toughness. Fall down. Get up. Push yourself through discomfort.

To sport teaches responsibility. Take responsibility for your actions. Entitlement doesn’t win in sport. Entitlement doesn’t win in life.

So, get involved in sports. Stick with it.

Get good at a sport. Be a better athlete. You bet.

Get good at what makes you good at a sport, be a better person. You win both ways.

Best athlete, best person. Absolutely.

Jim Peplinski.

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