By Laurence Halsted, former Olympic fencer, current Performance Director at Danish Fencing, and Co-Director of The True Athlete Project's Mentoring Program.
(Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Laurence's 3-Part Series)
Sport in 2018 is not coming close to delivering its potential; not for the participants nor for society as a whole. From grassroots all the way up to the Olympic and elite level, there are valid concerns with how sport is organised and how athletes are trained and treated. Where sport should be an unequivocably positive force for individual physical and mental health, as well as a boon for communities and society in general, it is in fact rife with stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, bullying, discrimination, corruption...The list goes on.
Sport has lost its way. It has lost the connection to its true meaning and value. Sportsmanship, fair-play and honour have been demoted in importance by a win-at-all-cost attitude. The driving force is now a cynical business-model approach where the bottom line is results, and we are quick to justify or excuse almost any means to that end.
My pet grudge and a clear example of the downgrading of traditional sporting values in the quest for winning is the ubiquity of diving in football. There is no question that this ‘simulation’ that we have been forced to accept as standard practice is plainly and simply, cheating. Cheating that is, at best, tolerated by clubs and fans, and at worst, encouraged by them if it helps the team to win. Any club or coach could easily eradicate this pernicious behaviour from their team if they wanted. Equally, players could decide to live and play by a higher code and refrain. As I see it, those that do refrain achieve something far greater than a free kick or penalty; they win greater respect from the people watching and those playing with them.
Laurence Halsted is the co-director of The True Athlete Project's mentoring program. He was a foil fencer who won a silver medallist in the 2008 European Championships and represented Great Britain at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. He is the director of performance at Danish Fencing and has written for The Guardian and The Nation on athlete activism.
Read one of Laurence's latest articles here: