Five World Wide Trends in Sport which you ignore at your peril.

Five World Wide Trends in Sport which you ignore at your peril.

Having visited more than 30 countries in four continents in the past few years and spent time with sports leaders, coaches, athletes, sponsors, sports scientists, sports academics, sports medicine practitioners, sports administrators, government funding agencies and other sports professionals in many of the world’s leading sports systems,five world wide trends in society
(and by extension in sport)
 have become very clear and are screaming so loud that they can no longer be ignored.

Ignore them at your peril.

Getting Sport into Perspective:

First of all you have to get sport into perspective.

Imagine the world and everything in it was a bucket of sand: that’s all the people, the money, the institutions, governments, buildings, resources….everything.

Sport is roughly a teaspoon of sand in the bucket.

And we know, that if you look at sport as a whole across the entire world, the vast majority – over 80% – of that teaspoon is related to football (soccer).

And the other 20% of our single teaspoon of sand from our bucket is motor sport, basketball, the Olympic Games, golf, tennis, swimming, ice hockey, baseball, the NFL, the AFL, the NBL, the NHL, rugby, rugby league, cricket, netball, shooting, billiards, snooker………..everything else in the world of sport lives in that 20% of that teaspoon from our bucket.

So ignoring what’s happening in broader society is insanity. Making strategic decisions about your team, your sport, your national sports program without first taking into consideration the broader international social, political, economic, geographic and population trends is like wanting to go swimming but not wanting to get wet.

It’s different here:

Now quite often I will do a strategic planning presentation about this topic – about where sport actually fits in the world and how it is totally connected to and subject to all the broader social trends happening across the planet and there is always someone in the audience who will say, “That’s great Wayne, but you don’t understand it here. Our sport is different. Those things don’t apply to our sport. Our culture is unique”.

That’s like saying, “Look the rest of world might need oxygen to survive but we don’t – we don’t really live on this planet”.

The “Big Five”:

The following Five World Wide trends in sport apply to all sports, all athletes, all coaches, all sports managers, all government sporting bodies, all National Federations, all international Federations and every person who has any interest in any aspect of sport in any country in the world:

  1. The demise of volunteerism.Volunteerism is dead. Stop throwing money at namby pamby programs to increase volunteerism. It is over. It is full time. Elvis has left the building. People in this century barely have enough time, money and energy to do the fundamentals of their own lives without giving up a lot of it to amateur sport for nothing. The extension of this is that many of the amateur sporting clubs around the world will collapse and fold within the next twenty years leaving many sports with a network of larger more professional and semi professional clubs to work with – i.e. the “Super Club” concept. Start planning for this fundamental change in the sporting landscape now!;
  2. The “more with less” attitude of society. Think about this for a moment. Look at your own sport. Do you honestly believe that in the future athletes and parents will actually commit more time, money and energy to your sport? We can barely keep them engaged with the amount of training, preparation and competition we are demanding now. Where in society do you see people prepared to work harder for the same return? Not on this planet! Demanding more from athletes to achieve more will not work. And demanding more from athletes to sustain current levels of performance will not work. We will all have to find ways to enhance performance, improve athletes and teams but do it in less available time – we have to figure out how to achieve more with less;
  3. The changing world of communication, connectivity and collaboration. Anyone on the planet can connect with anyone else on the planet and can learn anything, anytime, anywhere and for free. This means that your sport must be committed to open, honest, transparent, ethical standards and to the paradigms of integration, co-operation, communication, collaboration and partnerships. The old days of secrecy in sport are gone. The sports who will grow and flourish in the future will adopt an attitude of “we” and “us” and reject the ancient sporting philosophies of “me” and “I”;
  4. The revolution/s in coaching. Coaching is one of most rapidly changing industries on the planet. The old ways of training coaches by forcing them to complete boring courses and workshops heavy with inappropriate content are over. So too are the old autocratic “do it my way or take the highway” methods of coaching. Coaching is about collaborating, partnering and  building sustainable, dynamic sporting environments with coaches, athletes and parents / partners working together as a team to achieve peak performance potential. The world is desperate for coaches who can thrive in this century and who are prepared to work with – as opposed to coaching at – athletes;
  5. The changing demands on the sports marketplace from families and athletes. Families have no spare time: that’s a fact. So to say to a family, “If you want to play our sport, you must totally commit to 10 training sessions a week and give up 6-10 weekends a year for competition (and pay for the privilege of coaching and competition)” and expect them to buy in is lunacy. Within a few short years sports like swimming, gymnastics, diving, rowing and others with huge training and competition demands will either be forced to radically change the way they do things or they will perish.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Where will you sport be in 20 years? In 30? In 50?

And, more importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Without a genuine and urgent commitment to intelligent, strategic change many sports will not survive the next 20 years, let alone the next 90….your sport could be one of them.

You could go from making history to just being another part of it, lost in the trillions of pages of on line resource materials to be searched for and studied by your great great grandchild in 2110 to pass their school project on “ancient sports”.

Too often people yell and scream and demand that national governing bodies, international federations and governments take the lead in these broader issues: stop yelling, stop screaming and start acting.

You can’t change THE world but you can change YOUR world: start today with the “man (or woman) in the mirror”.

Wayne Goldsmith


  • Basketball Coaching Resources  Posted August 6, 2010 5:28 am

    Hi Wayne

    Your first trend: The Demise of Volunteerism, is a sad truth for youth sports. Parents and community members hardly have the time to organize and participate in local leagues.

    Let us hope that through all the coming changes, our children won’t become victims and that they will still have options.


    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted August 6, 2010 6:51 am

      Thanks for the comment.

      I don’t like the fact that volunteerism is dying but it’s happening anyway.

      What will parents and kids do as the small, amateur sporting clubs start to collapse and fold? In the cities it will not be a big problem but in regional areas, without small community based Clubs, parents and kids may have to look for alternatives to organised sport. Sad, but you see it happening all over the world…..

      Also, I suspect one long term fall out of this will be the unstoppable dominance of China as the world’s leading sporting super power because of the political and government support of organised sport and fitness – i.e. some of the Big Five do not apply to China owing to the significant social and political differences between China and the West.

      The main point from the post was to get people thinking and talking about these issues and being pro-active rather than sitting back and waiting for it to happen while kids miss out on organised sporting opportunities.



  • Jeremy Pryce Posted August 6, 2010 2:28 pm

    My two cents:

    I think people will still committ to sport, BUT we do have to change our approach to how we committ. I agree that their seems to be a paradigm shift in regard to volunteerism and that this needs to be addressed. You have mentioned before that sports has a tendency to not view the athlete in his/her entire context, and that one of the areas of neglect is the home environment. Along with coaching evolving through collaboration with the athlete and sharing responsibility, sport also has to collaborate with parents to ensure that the athlete has conscious access to his/her entire cognitive ability. It starts at an early age. At the root, what we are talking about is personal development. When parents understand this and are empowered to participate, they will committ. This will be the new “volunteerism”.

    Or am I missing the point?

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted August 9, 2010 8:01 pm

      Good stuff JP.

      When I speak to Sporting Parent groups I often use the term “give what only you can” – in that athletes, coaches and parents form a “performance partnership” and each gives to the partnership what only they can.

      So with athletes it’s attitude, commitment, hard work, effort, engagement – things that only they can bring.
      With coaches it’s technical skills, tactical knowledge, strategic abilities, etc – things that only they can bring.
      With parents it’s unconditional love, the development of values and virtues, a strong sense of self confidence and self belief, nurturing in the home environment, help with time management and school commitments, help with nutrition, help with rest / recovery / sleep etc – again, things that only they can bring.

      I think the smart coaches will openly engage and encourage parents to be part of this “performance partnership” and be inclusive of supportive parents rather than exclusive and this, as you say, could be one possible new direction in volunteerism.



  • james marshall Posted August 6, 2010 9:36 pm

    Death of volunteering? Don’t tell David Cameron and his “Big Society” about it. We are all supposed to be running pubs, libraries, mental health care and council services- not sure when that leaves time for sport.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted August 9, 2010 7:46 pm

      In a perfect world, everyone gives openly and freely of their time, energy and resources to help kids enjoy sport for fun, health and fitness. That’s the world I think we all want but….

      ….this aint no perfect world.


  • Sergio Nivon Posted August 12, 2010 12:14 am

    Hi Wayne,
    As you know, I am writing from Mexico. Your brain and thoughts are really appreciated.
    I give 20 hours a week as a volunteer worker. My daughter and my wife are the recipient of this work, mainly. I consider it volunteer work because they have a team and I help the team. My understanding was that I could be one of the few people who could commit to do the job and have the credentials. I did the same work fifteen back and reinitiated when my daughter started seriously to train. I am a Child Psychiatrist and trained to be a triathlete (finished an Ironman). I do not see a good life without this work. I work part time to earn my living and at the same time cut superfluous expenses to make this dream possible.
    But you are right on the money. It is difficult to have the concept of this kind of life nowadays.
    I am planning to start a local club with installations to face the future creating a non-profit organization. During the twenty years I have been practicing triathlon I met people who embraced the concept, but it took me 20 years to spot a broader team. Part of those 20 years was my wife and I concept of the team developed in the culture. We are still struggling but there are people willing to take the relay.
    Thanks Wayne for your help. It is unthinkable, but your are part of our team contributing with you thoughts.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted August 12, 2010 3:10 pm

      Thanks Sergio,

      Keep up the great work. Even though I believe volunteerism is dead all over the world, people like you give me faith and hope for the future of all sport.


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