Blog Post: Safer Sport is not Boring Sport: Challenging The Myth of Machismo in Sport

There is nothing better than a great tackle! The intensity, power, and aggression is thrilling!

The Safesport movement, on the surface, seems to threaten this intensity. Some interpret a safer sport environment as boring, more careful, less intense, a sanitized version of sport that focuses on ‘participation ribbons’ for all.

What the Safesport movement also seems to reveal is our infatuation with violence and our assumption that violence is a necessary element of sport.

Some sport leaders argue that violence is an acceptable norm in sport because the demands of sport are cruel and brutal and therefore an athlete must learn to endure cruel and brutal treatment to succeed, that the ‘world is just becoming too soft’, that sport is like war and therefore requires combat or special forces like dehumanization training. When violence becomes the norm, and when pursuing your passion hinges on complying with the norms, athletes will not only accept violence and maltreatment as norms, but integrate them into their identity as athletes.

Violence as a norm or identity has dire costs for all.

Violence doesn’t belong in sport. Violence is destructive; violence is “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” In fact, one could argue that violence contradicts the fundamental premise of sport.

What the Safesport movement also seems to reveal is our infatuation with violence and our assumption that violence is a necessary element of sport.

It is a myth that intensity, aggression, and power involves violence. The Latin root for competition is ‘compere’ which means to ‘strive together.’ Certainly, in sport we require an opponent to challenge us, but harming or destroying us would actually end the competition, would it not? Violence not only doesn’t belong in sport, it’s irrelevant to sport.

Our infatuation with violence in sport is what I deem the ‘myth of machismo in sport’. The myth is that to be successful in sport you must be a ‘warrior’, battle-scarred and broken. You must have endured, suffered, sacrificed, incurred wounds and injury – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. But violence as a requisite for sport is simply not true. Sport is not war and the myth of machismo in sport is indeed a myth.

Violence not only doesn’t belong in sport, it’s irrelevant to sport.

As Jillian Horton so aptly states, we cannot separate character and well being from performance in any endeavour that is in service to humanity society, or the world more broadly; in fact, we negate the very purpose of the endeavour if we disregard character in celebrating capability. In sport, you cannot be a champion if you are also a criminal – consider Ryan Lochte who stole a sign at the Rio Olympics, was caught, and lied that it was he who was robbed, Lance Armstrong who took performance enhancing drugs to assist him in capturing 7 Tour de France titles, or Oscar Pistorius the para sprinter who murdered his girlfriend. The New Zealand All Blacks immortalized the concept of the inextricable link between capability and character in sport with their ‘no dickheads rule’ (you cannot be a champion on the field and a dickhead off of it).

We cannot separate character and well being from performance in any endeavour that is in service to humanity

Jillian Horton, Globe and Mail April 23, 2021

Likewise, we cannot accept any destructive force as prerequisite to any endeavour in service to human and social development. While hockey has one of the highest tolerances for violence of any sport, even in the NHL, the illegal hit rule prevents intentional harm. One might argue that rugby and boxing are violent in that their very nature involves violent hits. There seems no way around the fact that boxing hits are designed to hurt and even render one’s opponent unconscious and concussed – perhaps, for boxing, it’s time has indeed come. For sports like hockey, rugby and American football, however, the tackles are not intended to harm or damage one’s opponent. When enacted skillfully, these tackles are designed to stop an opponent while still allowing them to continue to play.

Safesport does not have to be boring. High performance sport does not have to be violent.

Celebrating injury of any kind as a badge of honour or conquest in sport is antediluvian. Sport must evolve if it is to remain relevant. And relevant it should remain – one can argue that sport has the broadest reach, impact, engagement, and power to inspire positive social change than any other human endeavour. Let’s keep sport pure, true, good, and safe.

Comments are closed.

Copyright 2021 integratedfocus.ca · Log in