Winning a medal at a community event

Celebrating sporting success

Sport has huge benefits for our society and communities.  It gives life meaning and purpose to those taking part as well as pride and great pleasure to those organising the events or spectating. Let us also not forget the benefits to our health and wellbeing and how it brings communities together in a positive way.

In this blog we talk about what we mean by success and how we should reward it.  How we can encourage people to overcome their fear of competition and the pull of the TV and online gaming!

What does Sporting success look like to you?

For many, they will be inspired to greatness and dedication by the success of their sporting heroes.  Whether that is financial success or simply the recognition and respect that comes from being an elite athlete.

We all marvel at the skills and incredible performance on display at events like the Tour de France, the Olympics and World Championships across multiple sports and of course Wimbledon.

However, simply because we are not destined for sporting greatness or to make it a career as a successful “professional” doesn’t mean that we cannot benefit from participation in Sport at an amateur or grassroots level.

“Do you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”
Mike Singletary

If you are anything like me, then finishing a sporting event or competition, even coming last, can still feel like a win and a major victory! As a keen amateur cyclist racing against much more competitive youngsters, I felt proud just keeping up with the main pack and not getting dropped. I’d come across the finish line smiling from ear to ear just like the actual winner.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be number one of course.  Striving to be the best we can be is incredibly motivational and creates the drive, determination and effort that we need to keep going through the good times as well as the bad. It also drives growth and development.

However, success should not just be measured in terms of getting on the podium. From our perspective, everyone that takes part, spectates or makes the event possible deserves a medal (obviously we would recommend a personalised medal!) as collectively we create pleasure, joy, and personal satisfaction for the majority. We build relationships, friendships, communities, promote peace and camaraderie.  Heck, surely that always deserves a medal!

So, if you are organising a sporting event at any level make sure you are also awarding medals for effort and participation as well as winning and also for those that support the endeavour as coaches and spectators.

Time to get off the couch!

What are the greatest drivers of human behavior?  Yes, you guessed it – fear and desire. We know that some people are very competitive and have a tremendous desire to win and as a result do not struggle to get off the couch.  I’m sure you know someone like this! 

Equally, there are a great many that fear competition. They worry that they will appear inadequate to others, that they will make a fool of themselves or that they are “not sporty”.  However, this is fear and not reality because being “sporty” is simply a state of mind and for those that do struggle they are more likely to get a pat on the back and respect from having a go rather than scorn and ridicule.

That said, we know psychologically it is not easy to overcome our fears and biases and a distinct lack of self-confidence.  21st century life offers us plenty of reasons to curl up on the sofa with a naughty snack and a glass of wine (e.g. social media, online gaming and more choice of films and programs to watch on TV) and avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable.

This is why we should applaud and reward those that have a go at any standard and at any age.  I’m sure that increasingly there are parents up and down the length of the country struggling to get their kids active and away from the games console! Parents worried sick about what the future will hold for their kids if they continue to isolate themselves and be unwilling to get outdoors and participate in sport.

So, what can we do to encourage others to get off the couch and take part?

  • Keep it simple and encourage people to have a go.  Organise taster sessions and non-competitive sessions and events to allow people to try out the sport. The prospect of racing and chasing the first time you take part in a sport will put many people off. So a fun run before an Iron Man!
  • Provide equipment (even for hire if necessary) to enable people to get started before they commit huge sums of money to a sport they may or may not take to. This also helps those that are financially less fortunate and ensures that sport and sports clubs are inclusive and not discriminatory.
  • Where appropriate and feasible, create competitions within competitions.  This enables those with disabilities, the younger and less experienced and the older very experienced (I know all about being a veteran!) to take part together. Yes, there can be an overall winner but also winners for different categories.
  • We should encourage those that co-ordinate, manage and are responsible for sport in our communities to offer access to a broad range of activities.  Not everyone wants to run, play footy or get sweaty and there are many unusual activities that are great fun and relatively inexpensive if we use our imagination.  Yes, funding is tight, but by offering activities that have broader appeal we increase the chances of getting more people involved.
  • As we have said above, don’t just reward the winner. Medals for participation, for effort and commitment and for supporting others are just as important to motivate us to get off the couch. Also, distinctive medals that will last a lifetime and be a constant positive reminder of sporting “success” at whatever level rather than poor quality tokens that may simply get discarded.

Have your say?

Do you enjoy an interesting or unusual sporting activity that you would encourage others to try? Perhaps you have some ideas how we can encourage people to become more active and enjoy all the benefits of taking part? We would love to hear your feedback.

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