Masters of Networking
Why do you play Sport?
• Keep fit
• Stay healthy
• For competition
• For Recognition/Status
• For Fun
• Camaraderie/Sharing of friendship
• Meet people
• Make money
All of the above, would probably be the best answer. But at various stages in our lives, some become stronger motivational forces than others.
In your early years, sport is (or should be) carefree, fancy-free and full of wonder. Fun-times of running, playing, swimming, kicking and bashing balls with friends, family, brothers, and sisters. In fact, anyone who is interested. Here and there, there is always the odd fracas, but they are pretty much, few and far between. While a whole beehive of factors are critical, key to long-term success on the sporting field, is this FUN factor. If The FUN aspect of playing sport is lost, be assured, that person will not play the sport for long.
Competition, Recognition and Status, soon start raising their double-sided, ambiguous heads. If kept under control, these are powerful, driving forces and keep the talented, disciplined and hard-working players focused. But when balance is lost, when ambition and external pressures of parents, schools and clubs start interfering, life expectancy in that sport will be short.
There is a competitive streak that lies within all of us. With some, it pumps, powerfully, and sometimes poisonously through the veins. With others, possibly less venomously. Health and fitness are always strong motivating factors. Here squash, as a convenient, economical, time-friendly, any-time, any-weather, played-all-over-the-world sport, is arguably one of the best options available. Finally, wealth, potentially, can become a motivating factor for a very few hard-working and talented ones. Sadly, Squash stands towards the back of this queue.
Meeting people, making friends, and establishing relationships, sadly, are often forgotten factors for playing sport. And worryingly, the younger generation seem to attach very little importance to this as a reason for playing sport.
As you start heading down the hill of success, your raison d’etre for playing sport, changes. Now, relatively more comfortable with yourself and your life, those 45 minute court sessions become little vacuums in your life, where all else is forgotten. Bombs may fall, your boss might phone, but for that little bit of time, you are taken away from the world in a sweaty little boxed cell. While that competitive edge never blunts, it is probably less cutting. You have probably achieved as much as you are going to achieve…and now it is more about “staying alive” -maintaining fitness and fighting the mental stresses of life. Part of this, is the fun, meeting people and making friends-factor.
The Masters squash Inter-provincial was held in Port Elizabeth last month and Port Elizabeth put on her best clothes to host this event. For a week of warm, friendly sunshine, over 500 men and women deluged onto her beautiful beach-front, vibey restaurants and bars , to play and party at an array of courts and clubs which can stand up and be counted against the best in the country…if not the world.
Yes, it was competitive. Yes, there are some still incredibly well maintained, efficiently-moving bodies. But arthritic joints, worn-down cartilages, old injures, and battle scars all start becoming equalizers. Bandaged and braced, they bond. Except that Skill Factor never dies. Those who developed their skills are now able to move less, but wily, sly and cleverer than ever.
Now, players who had played at the highest echelons, start gelling with “lower beings” who may have played at lesser levels. Players from other clubs, married through the love of the sport but divorced by leagues, are herded into teams decided by the stage of your age! Or the age of your stage. You are gelled into a team together. The net-working potential grows. Acquaintances, now caught up within a team of competitive rivalry, fight for each other, on-court, and support and advise each other off-court. Like golf’s Ryder Cup, and the recent Laver Cup of tennis, individual sportsman thrown together into a team, make for compelling sporting occasions. The individual fighting for himself, within a team environment. Special
Then post-match, they share ideas, thoughts, memories, views and plans…sometimes with virtually no relevance to the squash that happened an hour ago. As matches are completed, players from the other provinces, join the fray. A bubbling potjie-kos of friendship brews. The networks spread their nets.
Bonded by provincial affiliation, the possibility of some more beers, and/ or watching the younger, fitter, faster age groups, sides gather together to support their new younger and older provincial team-mates in the afternoon/matinee shows.
Next morning, the dribble of aching bodies and sometimes, some sore heads gather for the 9am matches, and gradually the bubble of laughter and camaraderie grows through the day. Yes, there are titbits of time where matches tipple on a balance. Occasionally, tensions simmer but these are swiftly swept aside as this bubble of networking seems to bulge through the day into Group functions or Team dinners.
Through all of this, the web of networking works, and various door-opening opportunities occur. On a personal level, sport opened doors for me at university. Though sporting contacts, I was offered my first teaching position. I did not even have to apply! The Sporting Network allowed me to spread my wings out of teaching and into the corporate world. And Sport has allowed me opportunities to travel to many parts of the world. Most importantly, Sport has created opportunities for me to meet some amazing people, and rarely now, in my business travels, am I locked up, to linger, in in a lonely hotel room.
To me, networking is the essence of sport. This is the key to the value of Sport. The Masters Tournaments, epitomize this spirit. This magic that has some of the younger folk, like teenagers, yearning to be a …just a little bit older! Hopefully, today’s younger sporting heroes will tangle themselves into this web of friendship.