The Society of Sport was formed under a different name in the late 1990s. The original members were a mixed bag of athletes that informally discussed their personal philosophies about sport, often over a drink after a hard match, race, or training session. Some core principles about why and how to do sport were developed after gathering consensus among them.
As these athletes wandered off to different parts of the world the discussions continued, as did the number of people involved in them. One became a member through discussion, but nobody kept a registry (though we’re working on that). Thus, the number of athletes that belong to the Society is unknown; hundreds at least, perhaps thousands. Some might not even remember it themselves.
Until recently, these discussions have taken place in loosely organized gatherings, letters, online threads, and long email correspondences. It was decided that the some of the results of this – call it a method, process, philosophy, or perhaps even therapy – should be gathered in a place that is more publicly available. You have now arrived at that location.
Why a society?
Sport doesn’t have to be taken seriously, but it’s not unusual that people do so at any level of play. Break an agreed-upon rule – intentionally or not – and faces quickly get stern, even in the most consequence-free games. Breaches of etiquette on the field of play can make things even more sour, even if it’s only an informal code that gets transgressed.
This is because sport, for many, has a deeper meaning and value that is often difficult to describe. It bonds us together in ways that other pursuits do not. It has a set of ideals and principles that we might not always think about, but that many of us feel in our actions and reactions. When another of us doesn’t appear to take those things seriously, we feel slighted, even betrayed. It makes us feel like our engagement is less important. It makes us feel separated from each other; disconnected.
When we challenge each other in a like-minded contest, when all are engaged, prepared and the conditions are fair, the feeling is cohesive, magnetic. We look forward to the presence of others, the contact, and the events unfolding. Our emotions become augmented, and we are more affected by the situations that arise. When it’s over, we feel closer to our fellow competitors. We know each other better, because we’ve been through it together – regardless if we were trying to outdo each other.
It’s these feelings that are the foundation of sport, and of being an athlete. It’s been said that sport and games are likely what we would spend most of our time on if our other needs and responsibilities were taken care of. Maybe that’s because it allows us to explore ourselves, and our relationships with others, on a different level than what most of life works on. It lets us be a part of traditions, institutions, interests, and ideals shared and respected by many. But most importantly, it gives us an identity – one that can be seen and understood by others, and one that we can see and understand in others.
We become part of a society.
There are lots of societies in this world. Many of them have little or nothing to do with sport or games, and that’s fine. It is, however, difficult (and in many ways undesirable) to not interact with these other societies – even if we don’t understand them in the same way we understand the sporting ones. Some of these other societies might also influence sporting ones in ways that we aren’t aware of, or perhaps interested in. You might see these societies’ interests making their mark on sport already: entertainment, business, politics. In some cases these might get on well together, and help the sporting society develop. In other cases, there might be conflicts of interest, ideals, or traditions. Indeed, many of the problems that get exposed in sport today arise from these conflicts with other societies, and rarely from sport itself.
It’s when this happens that we need to go back to our identity’s roots, our understanding of why we do sport. Only through this understanding will we get the clarity we need to act in a way that strengthens our Society, our fellow athletes, and ourselves.
The Society of Sport humbly wishes to shine a light on how sport should be done, according to its members. That light might then seen by other societies, and even learned from. Perhaps it could help them become more… sporting.
If you want to know more about the Society, feel free to reach out by email: contact (at) societyofsport.online