Creating A New Sport: Where, When, Why, and Who
In the last installment of Creating A New Sport, Tracy Ross and Murray State professor of sport psychology Dr. Dan Wann began discussing creating a new sport from scratch. Next, the two build on their previous brainstorm.
"As we're figuring out what the sport is going to be, we have to keep in mind that when you ask people why they follow their favorite team, you get such a wide range of responses," Wann begins. "You're not going to please everybody. These things that we came up with [in the last discussion], being a team sport, etc...that's for the general fan. You're going to have exceptions to the rule."
"When we look at the motivational profiles of fans, there are several big ones out there," Wann continues. "Escape: it serves as a diversion. Aesthetics: it's artistically pleasing to the eyes. There's a self-esteem angle: I feel good when my team plays good. You're going to have the affiliation side: it gives me a chance to hang out with others."
Above all other motivational profiles, Wann says, is entertainment. "The most common response is, it's fun. It's an enjoyable activity. In psychology, we really have a tendency to overanalyze things. We can get knee-deep in psycho-babble. We've got to make sure that however we set this up, at the end of the day, they'll be entertained," Wann says.
Can fans interact with the sport without damaging its integrity?
Wann says that not only is this possible, but the fans would also likely prefer it. "One problem for fans is that even though they tie up so much of their ego in this, ultimately, it's not in their control. That's why they do superstitions."
"The more you give them an opportunity to have a say, the more they will like it. Isn't this really what's behind the fantasy football craze? It gives fans a chance to feel as though they've constructed the team. If you're able to figure out a way to have a sport where the fans have a say so, I think fans would fall in love with that for no other reason than it gives them a sense of control."
What about the object? Should it be a round ball? Or something new?
"Whatever the object is, it would have to be something that could travel and could roll. I think that's important. You wouldn't want it to be like a baseball or football, but it's got to be something that can roll across the ground," Wann says.
Inside, outside, or hybrid?
"Certainly, you would want a scenario where it can be played both ways. You do not want to invent a sport that's going to be a function of the weather. Weather is a huge constraint that drives fans away from attendance," Wann explains.
"Also, you would want to try and set it up so the field could be unique. We know that one of the things that fans regularly cite as one of, if not the peak, factor is the uniqueness of the stadium. All of those cookie-cutter baseball stadiums built in the '60s and '70s, they're dinosaurs. They're building unique facilities now. That makes your team you follow special."
Wann adds that including an element of time is also important. Giving fans a clear idea of how the game is split up can help maintain interest. But, Wann warns, the sport should not be so dependent on the clock that it becomes the only thing spectators watch.
Are there any other final parameters?
"We have to figure out who we want the player to be," Wann concludes. "If you're going to invent a sport, you better invent a sport that people want to play. You want to have a certain type of player with a certain type of visibility and marketability."
Additionally, Wann says, the sport should ideally be as inclusive as possible. "If we could figure out a way to make [the new sport] one that men and women could compete simultaneously in...that would be outstanding. If we could invent a sport where you would not have an inherent advantage based on gender."
"Sure, size in some positions is going to matter, but not in others. If you could have a sport where men and women compete alongside each other, you're going to have a lot of people for that."
The following characteristics make up Ross and Wann's new sport:
• A team sport
• Not too violent, not too slow
• Not politicized
• Looks good on television
• Allows for an element of escapism
• Stylish and aesthetically pleasing
• Must be entertaining
• The fans have a say in the sport itself
• The main object moves from Point A to Point B
• Can be played indoors or outdoors
• Time is an element, but not the main focus
• Players should be visible and marketable
• Inclusive to all body types and genders
Tune in to the next installment of Creating A New Sport on Friday, September 3rd, at 12 noon. Click here to read Ross and Wann's first sport psychology series and more installments of Creating A New Sport.