Creating A New Sport: Figuring Out The "How"
In the last installment of Creating A New Sport, Tracy Ross and sport psychologist Dr. Dan Wann discussed the "where, when, why, and who" of creating a new sport from scratch. In this installment, they continue their discussion to "how."
In the last discussion, we talked about co-ed sports teams. Why and how would that make our new sport successful?
"If you allow for some co-ed competition, you're going to bring a piece of novelty to the sport," Wann explains. "When you think about major sports and sports where spectating is key, you can't think of a scenario where men and women compete together side by side."
Is that because of the physical differences between men and women? Would it be unfair or unsafe to allow co-ed competition?
"Certainly, if you think the physical differences aren't there, then you're kidding yourselves," Wann replies. "I think something different happens when men and women are competing together."
"If you look at gold courses, let's say all Par 5's were only 400 yards long. You take out the impact of a long drive. All of a sudden, the differences in muscle mass are decreased. Men and women would have more of an equal playing field."
"I'd say the way the fields and sports are set up favors what men tend to be particularly good at. Sure, we know there are physical differences between men and women, the athletes that play these sports, but it also seems like the sports have been set up to put women at a disadvantage."
Wann says the best way to incorporate co-ed competition is to include elements of the game that cater to men's and women's unique skillsets. "If you really want to maximize the co-educational side of this new sport, you'd want to set it up where what women do well, there's a place for that. And what men do well, there's a place for that. You wouldn't need those things going on at the same time. You can have different aspects of the event."
Last time, we discussed the importance of the object of the game, such as a ball or puck. How would this object be incorporated into this new game?
"When you look at the way in which sports fans follow sporting events, what we know is their eyes follow the ball. There's a lot of very interesting research on the perception of power in sports.
People, fans, coaches, players—when they try to figure out who the most powerful person is, they're looking to see where the ball is," Wann continues. "Who's the most powerful person in football? It's the quarterback. In baseball, people always talk about the pitchers and catchers."
"I think that we know that we want to have a scenario where there is a movement with this ball-like object. The movement could be across a playing field of some type, and you go from one aspect of that sport. The key is almost like it's a baton, and you're passing it to the next aspect of that sport. The more efficient the team is in one component of the sport, the quicker they're going to successfully move that object along to the next component."
So, kind of like a relay race?
Wann says that, unlike a relay race, "you want to have both teams on the playing fields at the same time. For fans, they want to root for their favorite while also hating the rival at the same time."
"Maybe one individual's balance is a function of the rival's or opposing team's balance. The more I'm balanced, the less balanced they are. There's some kind of weighted scenario where the better I'm doing, the poorer they're doing. You can see a direct competition at that point."
We talked about the field being a different format for each game. How will the players interact with the field?
"When you think about sport, it's oftentimes a reflection of war," Wann says. "In war, you've got your side, my side, and I want to get to your side."
If you set it up where everyone's trying to get to the middle, this is a unique aspect of sport that will draw people. I'm not trying to get to your goal while you're trying to get to my goal; we are both trying to get to our goal at the same time."
"You could almost have it be where there could be multiple objects being moved at the same time," he continues. "You could potentially say, at the whistle, both teams start on their side with this object. They're trying to both advance their ball and stop the other team."
In this scenario, Wann explains, players would "have to decide, 'am I going to dedicate my resources to inhibiting them?' Imagine what football would be like if there were two footballs in play at the same time."
Wann adds that he isn't sure if this would strain fans' attentional capacities. "You'd have to play with how it's viewed on TV. You wouldn't want it to be where the fans say, 'I can't follow all the action. I can only look at one thing at a time.' But if you can figure out a way to make it simultaneous, I think that would add some novelty."
We talked about fans having an active role in the game as well. Is the technology currently available to utilize this aspect?
"Stadiums nowadays can see that rain is coming and close the roof on a stadium that holds 50,000 people. With the right amount of money, I suppose anything is possible," Wann laughs.
"But can you imagine the fan's perspective—the ability to manipulate in real-time what's happening? I wonder what the coaches would think about that. Would that lead to a higher level of fan violence within the own fan's team?"
"All I know is, from a sport fan psychology perspective, given that gans have all these rituals and superstitions, if you gave them the actual opportunity to control the playing field, you would make a mint."
For a recap, the following characteristics make up Ross and Wann's new sport:
• A co-ed game that caters to both genders' strengths
• An action object that transitions to the next component of the game
• A weighted aspect (one side's strengths undermine the other's)
• Primary action happening in the middle of the field
• Multiple action objects
• Fan-player interaction technology
• A team sport
• Not too violent, no too slow
• Not politicized
• Looks good on TV
• 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