John Saunders (Brisbane, Australia)International Sports Studies 41 No. 1 (2019)
https://doi.org/10.30819/iss.41-1.01 pp: 1-4 2019-05-06
With this edition the journal begins its forty-first year. I need to make it clear that unfortunately these forty years have not been completely continuous, yet nonetheless, entry into its fifth decade represents a considerable achievement for this journal - a concept that has been developed and managed entirely as a labour of love over its duration.
In the human lifespan ‘the forties’ has for a long time been seen as the beginning of middle age, with middle age being defined as “the period of age beyond young adulthood and before the onset of old age” (http://www.executivestyle.com.au/youknow- youre-middleaged-when--32v1l) It should be a time when maturity, the learning of the earlier years and the wisdom gained therein bear fruit and careers enter their most productive phase. So why is it that the ISCPES President has chosen to make “Reinvention” the theme of the forthcoming summit in Porto which is after all a celebration of the society’s forty years of existence? Should not the theme be one of consolidation and building on the experience, learning and wisdom that the first forty years has enabled? As indicated in my last editorial, the answer to these questions lies in the notion of change that is embodied in this strategy. Change in the context of the forthcoming summit, is not just seen as change leading to improvement or even change as development but rather `as enforced change because of the disruption that has occurred and is still occurring. Such a theme of course sits convincingly within an age where technology and particularly the capacity to create, record and distribute information has massively impacted on our lives and the way that we do things. Nor is this impact confined to the so-called developed nations of the world or the global north. It is indeed a global perception. As of 2017 the top 50 countries in the world reported an average of almost 85% of their population as being users of the internet. This ranged from 97% in Iceland to 75% in Puerto Rico. The UN reported 47% internet penetration globally in 2015, meaning that today over half the world’s population is linked through the internet. The figure for mobile phones is potentially far higher.
Of course, the internet was initially enthusiastically embraced as an agent of positive change. Some examples of that change have included the enabling of families that are geographically separated to remain in much closer contact through websites such as Facebook and increasingly in real time through Messenger and Instagram. It has brought to the world the ability to share globally great events as they happen - from Olympic Games to presidential Inaugurations, royal weddings and state funerals. However, as we have shared the great celebrations of various nations of the world, we have also shared the less ennobling events in our current history. We can be on the spot of terrorist attacks to experience the aftermath in real time and be updated on the actual event by phone recordings by those who happened to be caught in the event itself. Major weather events that occur in highly populated areas with calamitous effects on human lives are instantaneously transmitted into the lounge rooms and onto the personal phones of the rest of the world. Such is the bent of modern media and news reporting that sometimes it seems we share a hostile world populated with people who are angry and outraged with their fellow travellers and their actions and beliefs.
Increasingly too, and at another level, it seems we are hearing critiques of the negative, often unintended, consequences of this new ever-present technology. We find children are being exposed to material that does not sit well with childhood and our understanding of natural development in that life stage. We observe techniques of addiction being cynically used by the internet giants to engage young people in sedentary behaviour in front of a screen, who are thus seduced into avoiding physical play in real and natural environments. Nor indeed is it the younger generations alone who are ensnared. Increasingly I hear the lament of children that their generation X and Y parents have no time to give them the attention they need, rather they are focusing that valuable commodity of attention on their screens rather than on their children. In recent years some of the pioneers of the early days of technical innovation are leaving the tent and pointing out the side effects of which we have only more recently become aware. The constant surveillance of individuals and its conversion into monetary value has concerned many individuals and governments in recent times. We can witness in many communities the demise of neighbourhood shopping areas and their replacement by internet driven companies who operate large warehouses and practise employment strategies that dehumanise individuals. These are just some of the anxieties that have started to emerge as the darker side of the changes introduced through technology has become apparent.
One of the more disturbing aspects of the process of change in the 21st century has been the growing divide along age and generational lines. This appears to be something more than the traditional familiar divide between the young and their elders. There is in universities, unease and debate about the best way to involve the millennials and to prepare them for a future that is characterised by continuous change. Such unease is continued into discussions amongst employers as to the differing needs and expectations of the new generation. The early cries that innovation is almost universally a good have become muted. Yet educators continue to eagerly adopt the latest trends and fads in process-based learning, individualised instruction, blended learning etc. However, there is too little time to seek evidence of the effectiveness of the latest strategy before another has taken its place. Indeed, the evidence that is available has stubbornly suggested that direct instruction and the acquisition of a base of content knowledge remain the best foundation for leaners to advance from in 2019 as in 1979. Perhaps we are getting to a stage when adoption of the latest fad or technological aid needs to be considered more carefully as to the benefits and advantages it will bring. We need to evaluate the need for change and consider whether there are benefits to be gained from previously untried strategies or whether we might be just as well served by continuing in the old well developed and refined processes that may have been in place for a number of generations already. After all it does something of a disservice to those who have gone before us if we must always believe that we are brighter than they are, and our practices will inevitably be better, smarter and more effective. Of course, every generation believes that they can do things better and that is a most desirable component of the human condition – the aspiration to improve. But will it be better served if we apply more rigour and demand more evidence of the need for change rather than simply assume it? Throwing out the baby with the bathwater has been a long-held expression, but arguably it may be more than ever required as a precautionary principle today.
So, to return to the challenge that faces ISCPES at the forthcoming summit. Regeneration and renewal are concepts that are critical and survive the passage of time. But I am not talking about the sort of shallow ‘refresh’ notion that is at the heart of modern marketing. Assuredly one of the biggest if not the biggest challenge that faces our societies today is in questioning the market economy model that drives most if not all of our activities and processes. It is underpinned by a concept of continuing growth. Yet issues such as climate change, plastic pollution and water usage are forcing us to think seriously about sustainability and whether there can be such a thing as sustainable growth. Some amongst us appear to have a blind faith in technology and innovation to find a way forward. They are those who are booking their flights to the moon colony in response to the growing awareness that our own planet is becoming overcrowded. But, as we are finding with regard to information technology, innovation and progress do not inevitably go hand in hand nor necessarily lead to a better quality of life. I was at a seminar with town planners recently who were addressing the topic of liveable cities. Their apparently unanimous view was that by providing greater density of housing you could provide more lifestyle facilities to city residents and this would enhance their health and quality of life. It was a view that myself and others in my circle profoundly disagreed with. For us the loss of the space and privacy that we enjoy with our more spacious suburban homes and gardens, would not be compensated for by more coffee bars, bicycle paths, cinemas and the trappings of inner-city life. We all need to have a view of what constitutes ‘quality of life’ and it does not necessarily equate with greater wealth, services and facilities. It can incorporate the chance for peace, solitude and access to the natural environment. With the obsession with growth and development such components of lifestyle are steadily being eroded. We see today children whose contact with the natural environment has been almost totally taken away from them, while at the same time they may be able to hop on a plane and fly to Disney World. We need to ask ourselves does this really constitute an improved quality of life for them?
So, we owe the younger generation the chance to be critical and informed adopters of change and technology. Renewal should mean just that. We invite change and criticism, but we also need to reserve the right to reject change on occasions and to reaffirm our commitment to that which has value that we have inherited from those before us or even contributed to ourselves in our life work. In this way we can work with the younger generation to benefit us all by being involved in a cyclical process of review, and reaffirmation not just periodic and linear review and change.
It is my hope as editor that I will have the opportunity to meet with many new and former colleagues in Porto and become involved in a process which will result in both change and reaffirmation together. The hope is that in such a way disruption will lead to an enduring greater quality of life rather than become just another continuing source of stress in an increasingly uncertain world.
So, in preparation of our summit it is now time to turn to Volume 41:1 our contributors have again provided us with insights from around the world. On this occasion from Australia, Greece, Iran and Turkey. We start with a focus on an area that has always been central to our concern as educators - physical education and school sport, and follow these two studies with a further two contributions to what has been one of the major growth areas in recent decades, the management of sport in contemporary society. A study on school sport by Steven Georgakis leads off, reporting on the role of school swimming carnivals in the state schools of New South Wales, Australia. Sports carnivals have traditionally been a part of the school calendar In Australian schools. Georgakis points out they have also been a key plank in the sports system that enables the most successful to progress through to state and even national representation. However changing philosophies and priorities within schools and their communities appear to have impacted on this tradition. This has not just been the product of a reaction against the use of competition or elitism in schools but has also been associated with a decline in swimming programs for all children within school time. This is of some concern in a country where water sports and recreation are a significant part of the lifestyle and thus water competence becomes an important safety issue.
From the perspective of Greek physical education, Athanasios Kolovelonis reports on two experiments into school students’ ability to evaluate their own learning. His results show that students are more capable of making accurate assessments of their performance with practical sports skills tasks than with knowledge-based tasks. Given the importance of self-evaluation in the practice and achievement of independent learning in physical education, this is a very useful study for teachers and one with implications for the implementation of independent learning styles in physical education classes.
This is followed by Caner Ozgen and Metin Argan’s study of Turkish football fans which examines the concept of fans’ identification with the team which they support. Their results show that fans with high levels of identification with their team, value highly the importance of winning and experience pleasure in the defeat and misfortune of their rivals. Of interest to the clubs’ marketing staff, is that they also feel and exhibit greater loyalty to the club brand.
Finally, the study by Mohammed Zarei Mahmoudabadi , Seyed Mohammad Javad Razavi and Hossein Abdolmaleki also looks at brand equity in sport settings. In this case the organisations under consideration are private sports clubs in Iran. The question examined is on the effectiveness of relationship marketing and in particular how the implementation of this strategy both directly and indirectly, through the development of increased brand equity enhances the business performance outcomes of sports clubs.
I would like to commend our contributors and their work to you and hope that any disruption in your own life in 2019 may ultimately provide positives that will in turn lead to a better and lasting quality of life.
Brisbane May 2019
United Nations (2015) Millennium Development Goal 8 Taking Stock of the Global Partnership for Development. MDG Gap Task Force. New York
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