Response to “Individuality in Sports”
By Austin Hatch
The world of professional sports is a business; the goal of professional organizations around the world, primarily in the United States and in Europe, is to make money. These franchises pay athletes millions to perform at a high level on the field or court which will then, ideally, from the perspective of the owner, result in sold out arenas for the games; sold out arenas mean more money in the pocket of the franchise’s owner. Although I am merely addressing the financial side of things, these contracts go far beyond monetary value. There is a public relations advantage, if you will, of having the likes of Lebron James or Lionel Messi on your team because fans love them and like to say they are fans of a team that Lebron and Messi are a part of. Many people idolize athletes like these and hold them in highest regard because of their athletic ability.
The reason I mention all of that is to provide a bit of background supporting my argument that the ultimate goal of professional sports organizations is to make money. When they are young, many kids want to be Lebron James, or whoever their athletic hero is. Unfortunately, when this doesn’t happen, and in 99.999% of cases it doesn’t, the kid is often disappointed and the father does not treat the situation the right way.
John Stuart Mill holds that there should be a sense of ‘individuality’ in sports. This seems pretty obvious but really should be reiterated to kids’ starting at a young age. There is more than one way to be a great athlete and, in fact, being a great athlete should not be one’s ultimate goal. I understand being a kid and dreaming of becoming a start athlete, as I was once in that position as well, but I was very fortunate to have one of the most amazing men to ever live as my dad. He told me from an early age, as soon as he could tell I was going to be a pretty good athlete, that sports are what I played; they will never influence his perception of and love for me. When I was ten years old, I told him I wanted to be really good and play for Michigan someday; he did everything in his power to help achieve my goal, but never overstepped his boundaries, so to speak. He understood his role in my athletic career was to be supportive in any and every way possible; that’s it. All to often, people put pressure on an athlete to live up to their expectations. This is understandable, but as Mill discussed, there should be a sense of individuality in the sports world.
I never felt pressure to live up to the expectations of my dad. Although he was not the coach of any teams’ I played for, he was every bit as influential on me as my coach was. Whether he is an athlete or not, I think there is a certain level of mutual respect that must exist between parents’ and their kid. He must respect them enough to listen and internalize the advice or criticism they have after a game, but the parents must also respect their child enough to only say what is appropriate.
I know incorporating my late father may seem neither necessary nor fitting, but I can’t help but acknowledge him in a piece about athletics because he, just by supporting me, played an enormous role in my athletic career.
An athlete must be driven to be the best he can be. While using other athletes to serve as examples is perfectly normal and is often beneficial, I think every athlete must seek to be the very best he can be. One cannot play a game with the motive of signing a contract someday. Obviously that is in the back of every athletes mind, but it should not be his priority.
(I do not intend to seem too ‘malecentric’ and only use the personal pronoun ‘he’)