Sports Management Blog

Sportsmanship’s Different Forms

During the US Open, ESPN did and interview with Roger Federer, after a match he won. The interviewer, John McEnroe, observed that Federer, when the result seemed inevitable, began playing a bit differently. He pointed out that Federer was experimenting during the game with different shots than he would normally play. He transitioned into a question of sportsmanship.

McEnroe compared Federer’s match to another tennis player, Nick Kyrgios, who gave the impression that he didn’t seem to care about a match he played. It’s not just in tennis. I thought about other sports where respect for an opponent came into question. It got me thinking about sportsmanship and the examples professionals set for kids.

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Role models

Ultra-famous athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, and Bryce Harper, are role models to kids. Kids mimic their favorite players however they can.

Growing up, I played lots of basketball and my favorite player was Steve Nash. I tried to shoot free throws, pass, dribble, and act like he did. Other kids probably imagined last second shots while saying, “KOBEEEEE!”

These days, kids shoot from farther and farther away like Steph Curry. They dance and and celebrate after made shots. They try to cross over other kids like James Harden and stare them down before shooting. On one hand, that can be seen as a player trying their best and getting caught up in the moment, but it could be seen as disrespect.

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s critics say he’s arrogant. They point to times when he doesn’t celebrate with his team when someone else scores a goal. As if he is annoyed he didn’t score it. His supporters say it just shows his passion. Others say it demonstrates his arrogance. Regardless, how people perceive actions is subjective.

War and sports

Many sports use violent metaphors: go for the kill, be ruthless, it’s a battle, this is all-out war, etc. War is a violent aspect of society which leads to many well-documented problems. With the higher stakes of war and battles, you can’t regard opponents the same as a fight for sport, not to mention even less violent contests.

So is war the right mentality for a sport at young ages? Of course not, to any extreme. Most coaches and parents will tell you education and taking care of one’s self are more important. But they do not always act as if that’s true. They use the same metaphors as professional athletes and coaches.

In fairness, parents and coaches may do this to emulate how the pros get in the best mindset to perform their best. This type of talk motivates and brings the best out of professionals.

Kobe Bryant’s so-called, “Mamba Mentality” expresses the idea when playing, you have to be ruthless to be best. You could say the need to play hard and with intensity, at your best, is a form of respect.

On and off the court

Professional athletes talk about how they are different on their field or court than in real life. Whether this idea of separating how you act while playing and how you act outside the game is right or wrong is a separate debate.

For kids, their attention is on professional athletes during their games for the most part. This is where they see their actions and mimic them. Parents and coaches have a big role in making sportsmanship become a habit on AND off the court.

Conduct outside the field of play is starting to get some more airtime. Not only does television cover more off-field activity, but players’ own social media highlights it. Actions such as jersey swapping, where players of opposite teams sign their game worn jerseys and exchange them, get more notice. We need more of this, and these actions must be emphasized and given the positive credit they deserve.

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Broader implications

Sportsmanship is a habit. The sooner you start acting with it, the better. However, what one sees as being a good sport, others can perceive differently. It is a tough line to navigate as parent, coach, or role model.

I can’t say what is right or wrong in how to deal with this. There is something to be said for not worrying about what others say.

I can say is that sportsmanship takes many forms due to perception. Being aware of that, and acting based on how you would want to be treated, can go a long way. For me, being a good sport meant always having respect for those around you and treating others the way you would want to be treated.

The job for parents, coaches, role models, and mentors, is tough. But there are plenty of examples of great sportsmanship to expose kids to. The goal is to explore these topics of how to treat others and understand what consequences actions can have. Hopefully it goes a long way in a society where bullying is so prominent.

Being a good sport, encouraging others for being themselves can be a factor of this. All in all, the goal is to have kids enjoy what they do, on the court/field, in the classroom, or anywhere, and sportsmanship, and by extension respect, goes a long way in making this possible.

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A Quick Look at Technology, Sports, and Progress

We now do some amazing things with technology the size of the top of a pin. In sports commentary, a big topic is the impact of technology on sports. In many sports, one discussion is how reviews cause long delays, slowing down the game and killing the momentum for one team or providing the opportunity to regroup and come back into the game. Many see this as the cost of making sure the correct call is made, while others see the process of making the right call ruining the flow of the game. Regardless of where you stand, technology is here to change sports.

Most recently, the VAR system (video assistant referee) was utilized in the World Cup and generated many controversies. In the match between Argentina and Nigeria, Nigeria was in the midst of taking the lead, generating immense pressure. There was a play the Nigerian players believed was a penalty. Their captain successfully implored the referee to take a second look at the play. The review yielded that there was no foul. Until this point, Nigeria was coming back from a goal down, managed to tie it up, and was threatening to take the lead. They wanted to get the penalty, but the time away and the right call of no penalty led to a loss in momentum. Argentina then piled on the counter-pressure and eventually scored to win the game. Throughout the World Cup, phrases like clear and obvious error were thrown around.

The meaning of this is basically that there would only be a change or a review if there was an error the referee missed that they shouldn’t have missed. If there is any sort of gray area in a call, any sort of reasonable doubt, then the call made by the referee is accepted. The concern here is that a lot of times, the review doesn’t yield the right call. The review is used to defend the referee, and if there is reasonable doubt in the review, then the referee’s call stands. A sense of a lack of regard for the correct decision is what concerns many.

Image from NBA and NBC Sports: Link

This isn’t the first place this idea came about. In one of my favorite sports, cricket, technology enables more accuracy in saying whether a batsman is out. The India cricket board was against using the system citing that the system wasn’t foolproof, and the reliance on correcting an umpire’s mistake rather than go for the right call annoyed many in the board. The NBA saw this too, and only use their review system in the last two minutes of a game, the time where they feel missed calls make or break a game, and therefore is the only time that is worth slowing the game down for. The NFL had its own controversy with this too, with many debating their catch rule, where replays would lead to ruling catches as non-catches, and leading many spectators to question what a catch even is. Tennis, (and cricket) uses Hawkeye technology to see if a ball landed on or off the line in the form of a player challenge.


Image from: Playbuzz: link


Technology is a constantly evolving entity, and the best way to keep up with it and get the most of technology is to keep using it, embracing it, and working through any kinks, hands on. The goal is to take advantage of technology by building from the mistakes of past iterations and past methodologies. That is a key benefit of SquadFusion. It is a software and a system that looked at how other software and other ways of doing things created issues and left areas unaddressed. This led to the development of a better system.

Technology is all about learning from the past and addressing unmet needs and making processes easier and more efficient. Technology is here to make things easier. The wheel was technology, which helped in many ways and got better with iterations. The best technologies are built on the failures and unmet needs or gaps left by previous technologies. The horse-drawn carriage became the cars we see today. Rowboats were replaced by steam-powered boats that didn’t have to rely on the direction of the tides, and the list goes on and on. In sports, the review systems, online administrative tools, and other forms of technological aids all build off the past. Unlike review systems, administrative software is not in its infancy, nor is it perfect. But there has been room for growth and room for adaptability, which SquadFusion provides. This technology adapts to the changing needs of league managers, parents, and coaches. It has learned from past software and continues learning from current demands and anticipating the future.

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Fast Food and Youth Sports

Over the past few decades, a defining aspect of American culture has risen and impacted the country in negative ways: fast food culture. The convenience, speed, and time-saving values of the fast food industry and especially the drive-through have been well chronicled, along with the negative effects on health and activity. In California, there are ads about getting active. A kid calls his grandma in the house to come to his room just to grab the remote for him from the table in front of him. While that is supposed to be an exaggerated example, some may say that it’s actually not. All our technology has made it so humans are required to do less and less. Coupled with this is the reliance on mobile devices. According to a British study quoted in a Huffington Post article, the action of looking at your phone, even for just a couple of seconds, is becoming habitual. People are spending more and more time on their phones, about a third of their day, according to this study1. Take my own life as an example. I work with a computer and my breaks and any idle time are filled with looking at my phone. Many of my coworkers do the same.

Obesity rates in children have been on the rise, a key reason why former First Lady Michele Obama advocated for and implemented campaigns for kids to eat healthier and get more active.

image from the Obama white house

Being overweight/obese leads to many health risks, such as high blood pressure leading to heart complications, diabetes, bone problems, fungal infections, and acne, as pointed out by WebMD2.  At the same time, we have seen a rise in popularity of eSports, games like League of Legends and Fortnight, and their popularity in social media. An article in the Guardian points out that in Britain, a child gets their first cell phone around 12 years old. And one in ten of kids gets a phone by the age of five! It is astonishing that they are building the habits of phone dependency at that age. This same article cites a study stating in America, only 29% of high school students are active for an hour a day. That is the supposed minimum amount, also referenced in campaigns like the NFL’s Play60, referring to an hour of play a day. The Obama Whitehouse’s Let’s Move campaign also states that an hour a day is the minimum.

There is a need to get more active, and sports is a great way to do that.

The benefits of playing organized team sports cannot be stated enough. The first, obvious one is getting active. Organized sports also provide the opportunity to get involved in structure, a routine of practice and games, getting used to play with a group and building teamwork. These are well known, but many reports like the Physical Activity Council’s show while participation overall is not doing too bad, rates seem to be flattening. More importantly, how they play is changing. There is a difference between going for an hour walk versus an hour of jogging/running. Playing an organized game of basketball is a different level of activity than just shooting around. According to this report, 17% of 6 to 12 year-olds were inactive, a 5% decrease from just the previous year.


Physical Activity Council Participation Report

From the chart above, inactivity rates are going down overall, which is great progress, especially with kids (under 18). The goal is to continue to get kids to adopt better habits with eating and staying active. Team sports is a great way to go. Kids become accustomed to playing sports and staying active, forming a habit that hopefully lasts for a long time. Living healthy, staying active, and eating properly can be hard to pick up. Starting early and developing good habits at a young age increases the odds of those habits lasting and to generations becoming healthier and living longer. The foundation is laid with participation in youth sports and activities.


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Sports and the Need for Organization

If we needed to use a few words to describe the 21st century, some words that come to mind are efficiency, convenience, and speed. Basically, accomplishing tasks properly with the least number of steps. Faster cars, more fuel-efficient cars, faster, thinner, and cheaper tech, better and more user-friendly apps, phones that can do more than laptops of old. The list can go on and on. That is the overall theme, but how about in sports?

The first thought here about the changes in sports may be with regards to styles of play. With the World Cup, we see soccer is getting faster. There is smarter movement and creative formations and roles due to the ability to specialize. We see the influence of other sports. On corner kicks and free kicks, we see a lot of football and basketball movements, creating space with pretty much moving screens, hand checking, flopping, and quick movements and changes of pace dominating movement on the pitch.  In the last edition, the Dutch national team during their penalty shootout substituted their goalkeeper who played the entire game for another, who has a better record saving penalty kicks. Of all things you could call the move, random isn’t one of them. Preparation is a part of every sport, especially at the pro level. Scouting, talent evaluators, are finding ways to quantify and get a leg up on their competition by completely understanding their opponents. The other team, in this case Costa Rica, had to adjust to a new goalkeeper, who has tendencies to protect a certain side and has a different skill set. Which requires a different skill set to adjust. Costa Rica was unable to adjust. That level of decision making requires an organization which allows for a coach to focus on knowing their players’ games inside out and do what he is paid to do, which is coach and get the best out of his players.

The most recent World Cup didn’t see as many bold decisions to this degree, other than if you are aware of the organizational chaos in the Argentinian team. Argentina was in the World Cup final in 2014. Now, they made it into the knockout stage after relying on other results, and not taking care of business against Iceland, and not being up to play against Croatia. Since 2010, Argentina has had 5 coaches. Their current coach, Jorge Sampaoli, has changed his starting lineup in every single game he has been the manager for. The Argentine federation is known to be cash-strapped, with there even being reports that Lionel Messi who some consider the best player in the world and maybe ever, had to pay the salaries out of his pocket of the support staff. The lack of organizational stability has also caused new players to come in and out, and senior players like Messi announced their retirement, and then came back with the hope of a new coach, only for that to be left up in the air again now with Argentina’s elimination. Players and coaches can only do so much. Allowing the players to focus all of their energy on playing, and picking the right coach to bring the best out of the players is a duty for the organization. An unstable organization cannot execute as needed to produce results.

A great representation of organizational stability and player talent coming together is the Spanish national team. Winning the UEFA Euro’s in 2008 and 2012, and winning the World Cup in between in 2010. Their “golden generation” with great coaching and crucially, organizational stability, were able to enjoy a great run of success. How did it end? Stability was taken away. The coach in 2014 was unable to adapt to teams figuring their style out. The organization failed to do its job in adapting and growing with the style of the play. Then in this most recent world cup, they fired their coach two days before their tournament opener. The theme here is the importance of organizational stability and efficiency. With the example of Argentina, a lack of efficiency and trust have left their football in a state of disarray. Meanwhile, Spain’s stability, trust, and efficiency garnered them a huge success, but a small disruption in that trust and efficiency and a failure on the part of the organization to stay ahead of the curve led to poor results the past couple tournaments. Administrative burdens have hurt teams and leagues whether professional or amateur.

International competition is a useful example, but this principle can be applied to the leagues kids participate in as well. As league managers and parents, there is an expectation that the focus of youth sports should be on the kids growing because of playing the sports they chose to play. Having administrative hurdles takes away from that focus, and creates a need for organizational stability and efficiency so that the focus of coaches and organizers can be on the kids.  SquadFusion provides the resources for your organization to efficiently organize practices and games, get players registered and organized into teams, collect and manage payment methods and plans, and provide peace of mind for parents, coaches and league managers so that they can focus on bringing the best out of their players and produce results.  Just like most things in the 21st Century, efficiency, trust, and convenience, and speed of getting set up are key, and SquadFusion provides that opportunity, in a one-stop shop experience. In this day in age, efficiency, convenience and simplicity aren’t just needed, they are demanded, and SquadFusion delivers.

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