Professional Athletes – All work no play

While we tune in on our televisions and watch Lebron James take off from the free throw line to slam down a dunk or see Derek Jeter perform his patented “Jeter play” we see freedom and excitement coming from them. Freedom, happens to be a key characteristic of Huzinga’s definition of play. While we do see that in instances of sports, do professional athletes really just go out and “play”? As a student-athlete here, I do not believe there is much “play” for the sport I play and I am sure that most student-athletes here would agree with me.

In regards to professional sports, athletes go through what we consider today the “grind.” Throughout their conditioning, training, practicing and playing, there is not much room for play. When thinking about play in Huzinga’s terms, play involves:

1. Freedom

2. Limited time and space

3. Demands order

4. No real interest

5. No profit gain

Now from what I believe to be the characteristics of Huzinga’s terms for play, professional sports and athletes do not fit in most of these categories. In regards to freedom, well, where is the freedom when every major sport has rules and regulations? Also, is it freedom or play when you are on a strict weekly schedule, showing where you need to be at what time wearing this, that, and the other thing?

#2 yes, most sports do have limited time and space except for baseball, there is only limited space. The sports have certain periods that only allow so much time. They are allowed a limited amount of space where there are goal lines that they can not cross due to regulations.

#3 on the list could work in professional sports. From personal experience, order is a key factor in sport. Coaches demand order, organization, focus, anything that involves being diligent in their craft.  In order to compete in these professional sports, you have to create order in yourself as a player in order to succeed.

#4 is the complete opposite for professional sports in terms of play. This is their job, their livelihood.  They have gone through the ranks, starting as little kids, growing up and competing at high levels constantly working and getting better so that they may one day be able to play at the professional level.

#5 I mean lets be honest….how much money does the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL make it profit? Exactly. For Huzinga’s style of play, there is not money involved, no business. In professional sports, it has become nothing but a business. Contracts, negotiations, free agencies, all business.

Now, although professional sports do not match the characteristics of play that Huzinga noted, it is not like professional athletes do not have fun. As I right this blog, Derek Jeter gets the game winning hit in his final game at Yankee Stadium. Imagine the fun he had during that time. We see athletes having fun in games, smiling as they dominate the game. While sport may be serious and organized, there is a fun side to it. In Huzinga’s theory however, professional sport is no where near his idea of “play.”


One thought on “Professional Athletes – All work no play

  1. Carm, I dont really agree with you. Although there are some cases where athlete play for play I believe that people do play to play. If an athlete is not satisfied and is not having fun then they can do something else. From my short time here I have already seen and heard of cases where people think what they are doing is too much for them and they stop playing. On to free time. I would consider free time to be something somebody does for fun. When we engage in our sports, we have fun. Yes, we are practicing according to a routine but we get to enjoy the game. We may not be able to hang around and do nothing but then that doesnt fall under the category of play.


Comments are closed.