Sport and change


In life we claim that change is something that is not always easily understood by those on whom it is intended to have an impact and consequently these same individuals do not readily accept it.
Life is about change and there is little that we can do to prevent it. What is therefore important is for us to be able to be ahead of the game and strive to be part of the process of change.
In sport as in life change occurs all of the time. It is unfortunate that those who lead sport are not always sufficiently open to change and are left well behind, often wondering where things known to us have suddenly gone. This is the main reason why Caribbean sports leaders are so often mere passive participants at international conferences and congresses. Their continued failure to study their respective sporting disciplines in all aspects leaves them incapable of making meaningful discussions to the changing needs of their respective sporting disciplines at an international level. In the end they are mere recipients of change without ever really understanding it.
Table Tennis
Several years ago the international federation for Table Tennis recognised that the sport was losing adherents. People were no longer keen on playing the game as hitherto and the game lost its appeal to spectators. The leaders of the sport decided to change the colour of the ball. Instead of the ball being white is is now orange. This allows the television camera to readily follow the ball during the most exciting of games.
The international federation needed to be able to attract television support in a manner that allowed for a steady stream of income from the sale of television rights. The television people felt that table tennis matches were too long and unattractive. Again, in response the international federation tampered with the game. The game no longer went to 21 points but instead to 11. The service changes not after five points but instead after two.
The end result has been a more attractive table tennis game that has won over the television and attracted more adherents and supporters as well as sponsors.
The traditional Volleyball game, like several other sports had begun to lose spectators and players, to say nothing of the loss of sponsors. Television was only interested in the major finals and nothing more.
Beach Volley was introduced in a big way in Brazil and the skimpiness of the uniforms, the appeal of the physical appearance of the players, the beach setting, the sing-a-long music and the family-like atmosphere generated at competitions combined to make Beach Volleyball the most attract feature in the sport.
The international federation capitalised on the event’s popularity and established a World Tour at some of the world’s most popular resorts that attracted television and sport tourists alike and fattened its treasury.
To save the traditional Indoor Volleyball the game was totally revamped and the sport has gained much more appeal that hitherto.
The entry of Kerry Packer as a direct challenge to the sport’s international federation, the International Cricket Council (ICC) led to a spate of innovations that has forever open this particular sport to ongoing change.
As a media mogul, Packer knew what the market wanted and he delivered. He introduced changes that the old-fashioned ICC would never have conceived in a lifetime.
Packer introduced technology to the sport in a manner that allowed for television to take keen interest at all times. The microphones on the field of play, the camera located in the middle stump and a host of other innovations completely transformed the sport.
In the aftermath of the Packer era, the ICC is still playing catch-up.
The One Day International (ODI) of 50 overs per side gave the television and the market all that was necessary by way of excitement. The music-filled game meant involvement of the patrons in a manner hitherto unknown. The ODI became an experience, a happening. Everyone wanted to be involved.
In the recent past the introduction in England of the 20/20 version of the game has further transformed the sport. This version allows patrons to attend following a full day’s work. It lasts four hours and is action-packed from the very first ball bowled.
This version also has far more by way of entertainment in all aspects, including cheerleaders.
In the T/20 Champions League in India there are fireworks displays following the hitting of every six in a match.
One of the more innovative features evident in the Champions League is the conviviality and sportsmanship that is deliberately engendered by the organisers. Following the toss both teams march onto the field of play and exchange greetings all around. This is repeated following the end of the game. The net effect is that each match is played in a spirit of friendship. Players laugh with each other. They are able to commend each other’s play and appreciate winning and losing. The spectators certainly appreciate this show of sportsmanship.
The Indian Premier League and the Champions League have effected so many changes in the sport that the ICC now recognises that it does not have to be the lone institution to organise international encounters.
Where once many depended on English County Cricket for their livelihood new opportunities have opened up just about everywhere. South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, to say nothing of India, have all opened up their respective Cricket Leagues to such an extent that it may well now be possible for some players to opt out of playing for their respective nations and instead make a financially secure career out of the various other competitions in which they can become involved.
Fast Net
The most recent change to take place in the world of sport has come in Netball. It is called, Fast Net, a name that clearly lacks appeal and one expects this to change in the near future.
Losing appeal in the Caribbean for all with the exception of Jamaica, which is the only regional team in the top five in the world, Netball has found it necessary to move with the times. The change has however come very late in the sport.
Fast Net is a shorter version of the game of Netball. It involves four six-minute quarters instead of four 15-minute quarters of the longer version. Between quarters there is a two-minute interval.
Goal Shooters and Goal Attacks can shoot from outside the circle in addition to still being able to shoot from inside it., a feat that is unacceptable in the longer version. The Shooters also get two points instead of one for each goal scored from outside the circle.
Fast Net allows for ‘rolling substitutions’. This means that players can be substituted at any point in the game and they are introduced in a manner similar to what obtains in Football – a game official holds aloft a paddle indicating that a substitution is being made.
There is another innovation. In the longer version of the game the centre pass to re-start the game following the scoring of a goal is automatically rotated. In Fast Net the team that conceded the goal gets the ball for the next centre pass.
One of the most attractive features of Fast Net is that either team in the contest can designate one of the quarters as a ‘Power Play’ during which each goal scored gains double points, including goals scored from outside the circle.
The International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) recently concluded its first three-day international tournament – Co-Operative World Netball Series – Manchester, England on Sunday 11 October 2009. It involved the top six teams in the IFNA Rankings – Australia, England, Jamaica, Samoa, Malawi and New Zealand. New Zealand defeated Jamaica in the final while Australia claimed the third sport with England finishing fourth after having defeated the top ranked team in the group stage of the tournament.
IFNA President, Jamaica’s Molly Rhone, claims simply that innovation is critical to the survival of the sport in today’s highly attractive and competitive sporting environment. Kate Palmer, CEO of Netball Australia, claims, “If we don’t change we will become irrelevant”. This latter statement tells it all; change or die.
Change we must
Leadership plays an important role in the process of change in voluntary organisations. Kotter (1990), presented by Chelladurai and Madella, makes the point that
leadership is seen as coping with change, planning with a vision to serve constituents, organising and staffing with those who accept and are willing to implement the vision, and empowering them, and inspiring and motivating people to satisfy their needs for achievement, sense of control and recognition.
Change is fundamental to any organisation since it exists in society and not in a vacuum. Voluntary organisations such as those involved in sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines have to be sufficiently open and receptive to change brought on by a rapidly changing global environment that impact the local scenario.