slicing the layers of personal-situational-systemic dynamics

Sport Systems – fragments of thought #14

Mark Upton
Nov 30, 2018

previous fragments – #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13

Much of this series, from the very first post, has been exploring the dynamics that shape and shift sport in various directions. More specifically, the dynamics that shape and shift the intentions and actions of PEOPLE in sport. Whilst I hope some of the posts have provided readers a stimulus for reflection and critical conversation, they were also an attempt at personal coherence and to inform myfastestmile’s purpose and principles. The multiple layers and dimensions depicted in the visual at the top of this post point to the evolution in our thinking since the visual below used in the first post…

The timing feels right to wind the series up by sharing our collective coherence through an invitation to work in fellowship with people who have high aspirations for sport…

“how does your life in sport add value to you, your opponent, your sport and your community?” – Al Smith

For those who choose to accept this invitation and ‘step in’, our aim is to mobilise a community of activists who aspire to see sport act as a beacon for the richness and depth of humanity, who recognise that realising such lofty aims requires a committed engagement to the long, hard yards of developing and sustaining deeply purposeful human relations and who crave a meaningful connection to fellow travellers on their learning journey.

For us, this endeavour starts with a willingness to truly sit with the question above and consider its implications for our life in sport. For those who join us we aim to curate opportunities to get under the skin of the tensions that it surfaces by exploring the theoretical basis for the emergence of healthy human ecologies in relation to our hard won experience of the realities of life in sport.

“True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care -with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world.” — David Foster Wallace

In travelling this journey we will confront the underlying dynamics that influence the shifting sporting landscape for better and for worse (from adding to extracting value from self and others). We will examine and scrutinise our emerging coherence regarding the conditions for value creation:

  • a willingness to sit with a diversity of aims, approaches and outcomes
  • the fortitude to take a principled approach and enable all to act with strategic intent
  • the personal courage to look into the shadow as well as the light to inform a forward path

…whilst exercising probity and care in attending to the conditions for value extraction:

  • individual achievement/status exclusively determining personal worth and belonging
  • severe narrowing of focus such that “winning stuff”, be that league, medal, participant or profit tables, becomes the purpose (often at an implicit level whilst higher/broader purpose still adorns posters, documents and public discourse)
  • significant imbalances of power and attempts to control others
  • unexamined assumptions and outcomes emerging from common organisational paradigms and practices

In surfacing these dynamics we intend to stimulate both deliberation (embracing tensions and divergent perspectives) and exploratory action that enables people to discover rich forms of life in sport.

So what, exactly, are we inviting people to partake in?

In line with the aspirations conveyed in this post, and guided by our working principles, we intend to convene a space where fellow travellers who are ready and willing to ‘step in’ can engage with us in shaping a forward path. So, keep an eye out next week as we share more information and formally invite expressions of interest to help found and co-create a Life in Sport Fellowship.

If you have any immediate thoughts to share with us please do get in touch.


Mark, Jono & Al
co-creators @ myfastestmile