Sport is a great way to showcase community values such as sportsmanship, social inclusion, teamwork and a fair go. But so often at both elite and amateur levels we hear about performance enhancing drugs, corruption and cheating - all for the sake of winning. These are a few of the ongoing ethical challenges Australian sporting organisations need to tackle in order to raise the bar of sport without compromising its spirit.
The 4th annual Sports Without Borders conference explored these controversial challenges and the culture of winning with a particular emphasis on finding an ethical compass in sport. Participants left the conference with hands-on strategies to deal with the day-to-day ethical dilemmas that result in sporting activity. The conference was held in the Moonee Ponds Race Course on Friday 2nd of May. It gave people passionate about increasing participation in sport the unique chance to engage with experts and leaders in the industry.
The conference was kicked off with the Hon. Damian Drum, Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation and Simon Hollingsworh, chief executive of the Australian Sports Commission. Minister Drum spoke of the need to spread the word about the benefits of organised sports clubs among young people. He noted the important role sport plays in keeping youth out of the justice system. Mr Hollingsworth outlined what was on the agenda at a federal level with the Australian Sports Commission’s new participation strategy.
Participants were then plunged into the grey world of ethics. Dr Pippa Grange, leading sports ethicist and director of the consultancy group Bluestone Edge, spoke about the everyday ethical dilemmas arising from sporting activity and strategies to deal with them. Dr Grange said the culture of elite sport is mirrored in community and grassroots levels and it’s time Australia had a conversation about the real purpose of sport outside winning. At the end of the day everyone is accountable for ethical decision-making, not just “the boss,” she said.
The day quickly heated up with the annual Great Debate’s topic: “People who don’t care about winning don’t really care about sport”.
On the affirmative team was Rita Panahi, media commentator and SEN host, as well as former test cricket player Adam Dale. In opposition was Professor Russell Hoye, director of the Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe University and ABC journalist, television presenter and author, Angela Pippos.
The debate opened the conversation up with entertaining insight into why people play sport. Participants heard an array of uncompromising arguments from the affirmative about the heights of winning and striving for excellence in face of robust competition. The opposition responded highlighting the social and health benefits of sport irrespective of winning. In the end the opposition won the audience over with their more nuanced approach citing anecdotal and scientific evidence to prove sport is indeed about more than just a game of winners and losers.
The lunch and tea breaks got participants from all sectors talking and networking with like-minded professionals while viewing the sport technology expo organised by the Australian Sports Technologies Network. Participants discovered the latest tech innovations and apps for athletes, cyclists, sports club organisers and tech enthusiasts.
The emotional peak of the day came with Senator Nova Peris’ keynote speech. Senator Peris took participants on a journey through the joys and tribulations of her career in elite hockey and athletics. Senator Peris is Australia’s first indigenous Olympic gold medalist and the first female indigenous woman elected to Federal Parliament. She spoke with passion about the importance of sport in aboriginal communities and the need to make sport more inclusive to engage diverse communities.
Rounding off the day were three intimate afternoon workshops, giving participants hands-on and specialised advice. The workshop presenters included Mark Mcallon, chief executive officer of VicSport, Patrick Moriarty executive director of the Institute of Community Directors Australia, Craig Hill, Executive director of the Australian Sport Technology Network, Andrew Walton from InteractSport, Alex Mednis director of Think Relativity, Maria Dimopoulos, managing director of MyriaD Consultants and Kate George and Ashley Fleming from Brimbank City Council.
The conference proved to be a winner once again, evident in the growing list of participants each year - hitting a massive 300 in 2014. Now it’s time to get excited for the rest of the sporting year ahead and look forward to the next Sports Without Borders conference in 2015!