Sportsmen and women are not a breed apart. That notion is something that needs serious thought here and around the world, especially by commercial media interests involved in broadcasting sport and the players/athletes themselves. They are not above the laws that govern their sports; they are not above their team mates; they are not gods to be sold as role models.
Here and abroad, recent media attention has been directed at athletes using performance enhancing drugs and/or their involvement in match fixing, but now a new issue has come to a head: training and motivational regimes and team discipline. Following the dumping from the Australian national cricket team of four key players for not completing a motivational assignment by the due date, the media and former players have been voicing their outrage at the decision by the coach, Mickey Arthur and captain, Michael Clarke. Their reaction is justfied in some ways but not in others. In fact this issue has two components to it that need looking at separately.
Players these days are under immense pressure to compete as every possible way of improving performance is explored to get that last drop out of them. Training staff are now all specialists, psychologists go through player profiles with a fine toothed comb looking for cracks and strengths... And the all important motivational regimes include written assignments by players in which they must state their goals, weaknesses, their analysis of performance, motivations, inspirations, aspirations and even why they want to play. It is getting so overly complex that it is understandable that some players will feel the need to protest. Some will break curfews, skip training or whatever as a form of rebellion. And frankly, when it comes to Australian cricket, wearing the famous baggy green cap is all the motivation you could ever need. A review of coaching and team management is long overdue with a view to rolling back the excesses and getting back to basics. That is one part of the equation.
Team discipline and unity within the players group is the other part of the equation. Whether players like it or not they have a responsibility to toe the line when directives are given. For the sake of team unity it's a simple case of one in all in. If team mates have seen fit to do as the coach or captain have asked then those who don't are letting the side down. It is as simple as that. There is no excuse for not completing tasks asked of them as part of an overall training regime. For this reason the dumping of the four players was justified. If they and the rest of the team are dissatisfied with coaching methods they should go through appropriate channels at the appropriate time via their own Players Association, not take their bat and ball and go home as Vice Captain Shane Watson has done.
Immense amounts of money, media exposure and hero worship have turned too many sportspeople into prima donnas. It's time they were brought down to earth and things put into perspective. When all is said and done, sport is a recreation that happens to generate money. As much as we all love a great sporting contest the world would not end without it. The media in particular should stop swelling the heads of athletes by presenting them as gods all for the sake of their own revenue interests. It's time to take a backward step and take stock of the direction of sport.