Sport Systems – fragments of thought #4

Mark Upton
Apr 26, 2017

previous fragments – #1, #2, #3

James Vaughan responded to the theme of “intentions” in fragment 2 with the following…

“basic human values theory suggests that every culture & every person contains the full spectrum of values (intentions / goals) but some values are primed & embodied more than others. Often extrinsic values (e.g status) outweigh intrinsic (self-direction). I’m not sure if this idea is useful or not? But the more we value/act on extrinsic values the less we value/act on intrinsic. I feel like it might a useful way to think about the system disposition and the people’s behavior within the system?”

The idea that the more we act on extrinsic values the less we act on intrinsic…I wonder if that is also the case collectively – others acting on extrinsic values influences us to do the same. That might be what James is suggesting when he speaks of the “system disposition”. These positive feedback loops (not necessarily positive as in desirable, but positive in the sense of amplifying/spreading) dispose a system to evolve in a particular direction, which may not be the intention of any single person in the system.

Linking this in with fragment 3, what happens when the extrinsic motives concerning financial profit, that may have lead us to Youth Sport™, are then embodied in the very participants of a sport themselves? What if the young players with “potential” come to see their sport primarily as a vehicle for financial profit and status? What remains of that sport? What and who suffers?

Among many things, I have a feeling quality suffers. On another platform Larry Paul is in the midst of producing a wonderful series of posts on “Looking for Quality in Youth Soccer”, riffing on Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (unfortunately Pirsig passed away this week). In Chapter 2 Larry asks What is Quality?

What is Quality is not a rhetorical question. It gets to the heart of the matter about what is Good and worthwhile on the largest scale. Youth soccer is overrun with organizations that employ synonyms for Quality like Elite, Premier, Academy, and Excellence yet are not accountable for what that means. Certainly there’s the “we use___” or “we emphasize____” but these are just “the things that have it.” The failure to define what Quality is the primary cause of youth soccer’s suffering from the maladies of affluenza and the Lake Wobegon effect. How can one be Good if one can’t say what Good is? And if everyone in the sport is allowed to claim Quality as their own how can a third party judge between competing models?

fragment #4 complete