By Ken Reed
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
— Robert F. Kennedy
Anyone who has been involved in sports for any length of time has seen examples of sport at its best. In short, that means sport minus the win-at-all-costs (WAAC) and profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) ethos that diminish the sporting experience.
Witnessing sport at its best – even if it’s only for a fleeting moment — gives one hope. And hope is what drives the idealist. Idealism, in turn, is what drives sports reformers.
Sports reformers believe that just because a certain policy represents the way we’ve always done things in sports — or the way we currently do things — doesn’t mean it’s the best way.
Sure, effective sports reformers are also pragmatists. Pragmatism is required to get things done. But it’s reformers’ idealism, not pragmatism, which drives them to keep working to improve the world of sports.
Critics will say idealists aren’t practical, that their goals aren’t achievable. But idealists make the best leaders and change agents. They grab our hearts and inspire us to action.
If you want to be inspired, talk to a change agent – in any field. Change agents are idealists who believe “there’s a better way” – and then act on that belief.
Change agents have a vision of what they want to see. They don’t know how they’re going to get there but they keep following that vision, despite setbacks and criticism along the way.
As momentum toward achieving the idealist’s vision builds, more pragmatists will come on board to fight for a righteous cause, and to help achieve goals and milestones. But it’s the idealists that will spur them to action.
If SportsWorld is to become a better place, more change agents are needed to take part in determining what sport represents in our culture.
We need more people who care deeply about civil rights, and social and economic justice in sports. We need more people who are passionate about sportsmanship and ethical issues in sports. We need more people who believe in equal opportunity in athletic endeavors. We need more people who want to fight for safer playing conditions, especially when it comes to brain trauma in sports. And we need more people who want to make sure there’s more youth than adult egos in youth sports.
That’s just the short list. There are many more sports issues out there today that a person can become involved with.
I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But it doesn’t bend on its own. It happens because people are courageous enough to fight for the higher principles of justice, even when their views might currently be in the minority. They firmly believe they will end up on the right side of history.
Ultimately, change comes from grassroots activism, when a growing group of people embrace necessary reforms, then advocate for them.
If you’re a sports idealist, be proud of the fact. Then find ways – big or small, local or national – to get involved.
“I think there are injustices and unfairness in my own country and around the world,” said Robert F. Kennedy. “I think if one feels involved in it, that one should try to do something about it.”
Indeed. For those involved in sports, I urge you to strongly consider becoming a sports change agent. You can help make the world of sports a better place for all stakeholders.
If you love sport at its best, what better way to change the world for the better than through sports?
Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of Ego vs. Soul in Sports and How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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