We all know football is a game of wins and losses (with the occasional draw). Sport, in general, is a game where if one team wins, then by definition, the other team loses. I am not arguing with this basic principle. If you put two teams of players on any park then without saying anything, they will compete to win the game. This goes from the youngest 4 year olds to the oldest players in ‘Walking Football’
It is this very ethos which which drives us in sport and is an intrinsic motivation within all of us. However, this is ‘on the park’ but should the same competition be extended ‘off the park’?
In our current environment/system this ‘on the field’ competitiveness is replicated or even amplified ‘off the park’ through clubs, coaches, parents and even the administrators who organise our game. I believe there is a better way to work together for the better good of the game without losing the ‘on the park’ competitiveness. I have already set out a manifesto for change in Project Braver where a tiered structure focussing on development and a pathway to the senior game would be the way forward. Unfortunately like all good ideas, changing the status quo is much harder and a catalyst for change is required. I always thought this catalyst would be everyone getting behind the banner of qualification for a major championship and thus putting our differences aside to put in place the required actions to support this. My contribution to this would be increasing participation in the grassroots game, in line with Mark O’Sullivans @markstkhlm ‘as many as possible, as long as possible, in best environment possible’ Alas, this was idealistic thinking at best. Contemplating we could be once again be a proud footballing nation competing at the very top level with household Scottish names prominent in the top teams is now a pipe dream.
So, how do we challenge this ‘off the field’ competition and consider whether it is helping or hindering our game? Let’s start why we believe competition is a healthy state of affairs. Competition seems to be present in all walks of life from sports to business to education. Subsequently, because it is taken for granted as a requirement for progress then it must be a good thing, right?…….. WRONG! To quote Peter Thiel “Competition is an ideology – the ideology that pervades our society and distorts our thinking” He further adds “We preach competition, internalize its necessity, and enact its commandments; and as a result, we trap ourselves within it – even though the more we compete, the less we gain”
I have seen this competition manifest itself in the workplace for years producing truly abhorrent behaviours as companies and individuals within companies try to outdo each other. This can create a toxic environment as managers use KPI’s and measurement as the blunt instrument of competition. Academia is no different with tenured professors and universities trying to eclipse each other over ranking points.
Ultimately, competition in such areas is ultimately destructive. We create opposing factions (enemies) who go to ‘war’ with each other. Yet, sometimes we don’t even know what we are fighting over. Back to our club scene, where we compete against similar clubs. On the field is fine and good, healthy competition will help our players, however off the field competition make absolutely no sense to me. I have heard many comments about other clubs ” They’re too big for their boots” followed by “They think every player wants to play for them” and then “They’re only interested in winning trophies” These are the mild comments, some stronger ones are unprintable. But why do we do this? Does it make us feel better, does it deflect from our own inadequacies?
I believe there can be better way however we need to remove this ‘off the field’ Competition. Let’s remove the Big ‘C’ word and replace it with three small c’s
Taking all players, coaches, parents, administrators and interested people together let’s work COOPERATIVELY across clubs to create a COMMUNITY which we can be proud of based on a CARE for each other.
We need to change our thinking and see ‘off the field’ competition as a destructive force rather than the way we currently see it. If we do change this mindset, then we have a chance of working together to make the changes we know are required.
Just think the value we could create? It would be the sum of all the individual parts which currently work against each other. How awesome would that be?
Let 2018 be the year we come together. We have more in common than we have differences. Let’s show how much we care for the betterment of the game and everyone involved in it.