I was very encouraged by the recent gathering of important organizations in the world of sports, government, business and health. They gathered to announce their commitment to Project Play 2020, an effort involving these diverse stakeholders who will develop shared goals around making sport accessible to all children. Soon after the reading the press release, I came across two other pieces involving sports, but this time what was highlighted were new or “non-traditional” sports. Some I had heard of, others made me scratch my head a little bit wondering if such games would be feasible on a larger scale.
I see some overlap between the Project Play piece and the emerging sports discussion. Our goals for the long-term health of our society, especially young people, include having more individuals participate in (more) sports. Not just basketball, baseball, football, hockey, soccer, tennis or golf. It includes ultimate frisbee, lacrosse, rugby 7s, T20 cricket, Quidditch, professional tag, and pickleball, amongst others. Why is this important? Because it follows larger social and consumerism trends in society. People are intrigued by creativity and innovation. Riding that wave could help us with the “more people, more sports” proposition.
As our society grows in size and variety, we should embrace the idea of sampling existing sports, or for that matter, making up new ones. While some border on the bizarre – bicycle soccer? – most have a connection to some other sport or leisure activity. What has changed oftentimes are the slight rule changes and the need, usually, for less equipment. A perfect example is parkour, or free-running. This amazing activity/exercise/sport phenomenon has grown up via YouTube. People see these amazing athletes and breathtaking environment and are motivated to give it try (with parkour, be careful!!). In this way we see more people doing more things.
Is there a splintering of sports in terms of broadcast viewership and in participation? Sure, and since the traditional sports are the ones suffering decreases, we need to be aware of what young people are doing now. Knowing that helps us prepare opportunities for a greater number of people. In this day and age, we are often only limited by our imagination. Thankfully, we have very imaginative people at work.
For parents, coaches, and administrators, don’t be afraid to let your athlete try something new. They, of course, don’t need to drop a sport to make room for a new one. Kids find a way to fit things in. With insight into more sports and more people, young individuals can be more developed and balanced in their lives. We certainly want to see that come to fruition.
Sarbjit “Sab” Singh is an assistant professor of sport management at Farmingdale State College (NY) and the publisher of Sports Doing Good.
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