Why a lack of loyalty will sink sport
Should on-field loyalty for a club be greater than that shown by its supporters?
That is, should players be more loyal to the team colours because, put simply, they are the heart and public face of the club?
I wrote a column in Each Way Bet a few weeks ago discussing loyalty to your team from the perspective of a supporter, and whether it was acceptable to have a ‘back-up ‘ team.
You know, the team you turn to when your favourite team – the one you would allegedly support come hell or high water – goes through a rough patch.
The feedback I received was interesting.
Opinion was split on whether it was okay to have a second – or even third – team in the event of poor performance.
Surprisingly, the responses were more cut and dry when posed the question to players about loyalty.
I asked seven amateur sportspeople – both male and female from a variety of sports – and was told in six out of seven instances that they would consider jumping ship if their team went for a sustained period without victory.
Ladies and gentlemen, the SS Loyalty has left port.
Aren’t two of the biggest drawcards of amateur sport the social aspect and the opportunity to compete side-to-side with your friends, through good and bad?
Aren’t those aspects somewhat removed if you are prepared to move to a different team the moment you experience a string of losses?
More importantly, are we that obsessed with winning that we are prepared to abandon our teammates – often mid-season – in the pursuit of victory?
Based on the evidence at hand, apparently we are.
I ran into a well-known sporting identity at Buchanan Park on Saturday and after the sixth race had finished, got onto the subject of loyalty.
This sportsperson has had a pretty average season personally and their team is struggling for form, which is the polar opposite of last season, when it won the grand final in its respective division.
As we discussed form and turning the season around, I was surprised to learn they were attempting to change teams because “they were sick of losing each week”.
“We did so well last year but we can’t take a trick this season,” they said.
“I want to be a part of a winning team; I’m better than losing week after week.”
When I questioned their loyalty to the team and how they could contemplate ditching their teammates after the premiership season, I was advised it was all about winning.
“I play to win,” they told me with just a hint of venom in their voice.
“If I can’t win with them, I’ll find another club.”
Puzzled by this apparent lack of loyalty and ‘fair weather sailing’ approach, I asked a friend of mine in Brisbane – who plays the same sport as the aforementioned individual – what they would do.
“No one wants to play on a losing team,” he told me.
“What’s the point of playing if you aren’t winning?”
So, that’s the attitude we are taking into our amateur sport these days?
The belief that if we aren’t winning, it’s not worth competing?
Let’s consider that for a moment.
If the only important thing in amateur sport was winning, you would have one or two strong teams with dozens of players clambering to sign up, while the other clubs in the competition would be struggling for numbers.
Without numbers you can’t participate, so some clubs would be forced to pull stumps.
With fewer teams, the quality of the competition would dilute to the point you had nothing but one-sided score lines week after week, which would make more and more players on the losing sides go and play somewhere else.
More clubs would fold.
Eventually, you would only have two teams going head-to-head each week, which isn’t really a sporting contest.
That’s why we need loyalty on the sporting field: to see us through the tough times and ensure that our respective sports have a future.
You won’t always win.
Sometimes, victories will be few and far between, but it’s how you stay committed to your club colours and teammates that makes winning even sweeter when your team does experience it again.
The true test of someone’s depth of character on the paddock – or on the court, track or water – is how they react when the chips are down and they are staring defeat in the face.
Deserting your teammates like a rat on a sinking ship makes you a poor sport, irrespective of how skilled you.
Ask any coach or club stalwart: they’d rather have 20 players of average ability who worked as a team and stuck together through thick and thin than 20 superstars who contemplated changing teams as soon as theirs fell behind on the scoreboard.
In amateur sport, genuine allegiance to your club is the key.
It’s something to consider the next time your team loses and you contemplate taking a cruise on the SS Loyalty.