April 29, 2006

New Facilities and Business Models

Posted in international, musing, sport at 4:52 pm by internationalsport

On my recent journey to Cyprus we focused our efforts on looking at sport facilities. I was impressed with the number of sport facilities for elite athletes in a country of 780,000 people. I was more surprised by the approach taken to operating the facility. In one facility where the construction cost was CYP 10 million (almost $22 million $US) I asked what it was going to cost to operate the facility. The response was, we don’t know, we’ve only been in the building a few months. Unthinkable as that may be in the United States, I’m beginning to think it is more common than I would have thought in some parts of the world. Should we expect sport to operate as a business? I’m not so sure that it doesn’t continue to exist in the United States also.
palace of sport-Limassol - 51
Given an environment where funding is limited it seems only too obvious that when developing a new facility that the cost of operation should be included. It wasn’t that many years ago when a neighboring city to me built a new 50 meter indoor pool and had to lay off at least one person in order to pay for the proposed operation of the pool. Given the state of politics in the United States, I don’t see that we really are much better than other countries. Yes, we have cleverly and effectively adopted the business model in our sport organizations, or at least we say we have. We provide tables, charts, growth projections, revenues and expenditures. We anticipate future projections, population growth, increased usage, maintenance and repair costs, renovations, and expect the funds to be there when we need them.

Are we eternal optimists or are we foolish? I’m not sure there is a good answer to this question. It is a little of both. Good intentions are also part of the mix. Politics may be a bigger part of the mix then we would like to admit. I still cringe when I think of the 12-year old aquatic center we had to tear out because it was built by a politician and his crony rather than a qualified engineer. I don’t know what the original project cost, but the replacement was $750,000 (now almost 20 years ago).

I think good intentions also play a major role in the construction of sport facilities. Where politics has an emphasis on some type of reward for the politician and maybe her/his friends, good intentions are designed to help the group the facility is focused on. Intentions are good, but intentions without the ability to build and maintain is a difficult issue.

January 6, 2006

Theory and Practice

Posted in international, musing, theory at 10:33 pm by internationalsport

I am frequently challenged by my students about, “Why do I need to learn theory?” I just want to be able to do it. From my Moroccan colleagues I hear you are so much more practical oriented than the French system. So where do we find a balance or is there a balance. Many American students think any discussion that doesn’t provide an immediate skill is not very useful. Their notion of theory is anything I can’t use. Now I realize this is an inappropriate generalization, but after some 25 years of higher education I find that students seem less and less inclined to listen to ideas. There are some bright spots in this picture. When good material is well presented and linked to application it enhances understanding. Yet our society is a “want it now” and there just doesn’t seem to be time for the required thinking. This is an ongoing debate in nonacademic settings as well as academic settings.

Yet I found it interesting when my Moroccan colleagues suggested that Americans are more focused on action and less thoughtful of theory. On the other side of the quotient, can we have too much theory? I don’t think so, but it has to come in small chunks and be linked to application. As students become more comfortable with theory discussion can be enhanced and understanding is increased significantly.

December 30, 2005

Observations on International Sport – What’s in a name?

Posted in international, musing, sport at 2:13 pm by internationalsport

It seems appropriate that the first posting to the new international sport blog site is written while conducting a “Building Sport Capacity” training program at Hassan 2nd University in Mohammedia, Morocco. Indiana State University has a strong commitment to international sport having spent almost 8 weeks in two years with selected members of the Moroccan sport community. In addition, the Cyprus graduate program is fully functional and has already had two classes completed. I will go from here to Limassol, Cyprus to finish the 3rd class in the 12 class program.

Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to provide members of the Morocco sport community, the ISU-Cyprus graduate program, and the Indiana State University Department of Recreation and Sport Management an opportunity to share happenings in the international sport community. We anticipate and hope that other individuals will join us in this community and share their insights into international sport. Many of our comments will be directed towards the development of understanding and strengthening of the international sport enterprise – as a business enterprise, a sport enterprise, and as a cultural experience.

We have a firm belief that through the sharing of information many can benefit. The growth of international sport community is a worldwide phenomena, rather than a national or even regional phenomena that has changed dramatically over the last decade. Exploring this community and the influence upon cultures has significant potential for world increasing world understanding.

Focusing

Last week I communicated with one of my students who is playing basketball in Chile this summer and will be in Europe in the fall. Another former student is completing his bachelor’s degree while playing baseball in Mexico. This summer one of our Japanese undergraduate students completed an internship with the Fullerton Flyers minor league baseball team. That may not see like an important event, except he was in charge of building relationships with the Japanese-American community. He obviously did a good job as both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oakland Raiders were anxious to secure his services. Americans have long gone to Europe to play basketball and to central America to play baseball. More recently we have exported American football to Europe and have become a player in football qualifying for the men’s world cup and recognized as the best women’s team in the world. While many may Americans may not think internationally, internationalism has come to America. The break-up of the old Soviet state opened the doors of the National Hockey League to the great players of Eastern Europe and they set the stage for other international players.

In many ways America has hosted thousands of international athletes without really beginning to understand the influence they have had on our society, our college campuses, and on sports fans. Whether it is baseball, football, basketball, track and field (athletics), formula-1 racing, or other sports, the world has become a smaller and better place as a result of international sports.

As professors, and members of an international community, we need to better understand the impact of international sport and discard our American view of sport for one of an international perspective. This is going to be challenging. Too many Americans think that sport in American is the best in the world, but then other countries hopefully say the same thing about their sport. The challenge for all of us is to embrace the concept of international sport and make it a part of our institutions. We will keep you posted on how we do.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a title is a good question. Currently we are titling this the “observations in international sport” blog but we welcome suggestions and ideas for a more appropriate name and even graphics to go with the name. Post them in the track-back below.