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Social Media – and Recreational vs Competitive Sports

I love having coffee with my wife each morning! We get into some lively discussions, and we can definitely have opposing views.  In some cases, we can even agree on “why things are”, but then wish they weren’t that way. Today’s discussion leaned towards the debate of recreational versus competitive sports and the resultant preparation kids have entering adulthood.

In the “old days” when we were walking to school in the snow barefoot, and uphill both ways, sports had a different priority. You played sandlot football and baseball, pick-up basketball, and took the old wooden rackets to the local beat-up & cracked tennis courts to hit tennis balls that were gray with age. Around 7th grade, you would start playing football, basketball and maybe running track (sorry, fewer “other sports” in south Texas at the time). Since I lived in Texas, I lived and breathed football throughout high school, and the school had great results. I’ll discuss small town football pride in a different post.

Lost in the 1985 State Championship as a senior :(

Now, flash forward 20 years. My wife and I coached soccer at the recreational level for years. We taught fundamentals we were passionate about (teamwork, winning with the assist, spreading the field, sportsmanship), but we had one practice and one game per week. Lots of success, lots of fun, and our “alumni” still like to get together to play co-ed soccer and talk a little smack. However, these players were not prepared to compete at the high school level with kids that had been playing “club” since they were 7 years old! Some of these youth football players have helmets bigger and heavier than they are!!

Our coffee discussion this morning centered around who is better prepared for life in the workforce. As much as I reminisce about the days where we could “just be kids” with our sports, I contend that the competitive athlete is better positioned to succeed in today’s workforce. Provided they guard against burnout, these athletes will know how to persevere, establish goals, use teamwork and resolve conflicts. I recently attended an Economic and Employment Panel Discussion hosted by the RMIMA. There was some discussion that employment may move more to “project based” work versus the “steady employment until you get the gold watch” that our grandparents knew. In those cases, I am wagering that the more competitive minded will probably have a much lower unemployment rate. They will be better at establishing goals, seeking training, reading how-to books, and even seeking unpaid internships with a long-term view for employment.

So how do we correlate this recreational vs competitive mindset to the social media world.

  • Determine your Goals: As much as I believe in competitive sports, I have also seen great benefits at the recreational level.  With proper coaching, the casual players can develop skills, build self-esteem and establish friendships they can carry for years. I love seeing these kids get back together several years later and fall back into the same casual banter while enjoying a sport they love.
    1. If your goal is to build friendships, and share some photos and ideas on a social network, then recreational consumption is for you!!
    2. However, if you intend for social media to become a part of your branding strategy, then you need to work towards defined goals. Your metrics can be website traffic, click-throughs, Klout score, followers/fans, revenue from social media sources or simply turning around bad customer experiences by meeting your customers where they are talking about you.
  • Have a Laugh or Go the Extra Mile: I used to catch grief from my recreational players if I had them run a warm-up lap before practice. And they didn’t want to do drills, they wanted to scrimmage all practice. What happened to working up a sweat in the warm-up, going through drills, scrimmage until you could barely stand…and then running wind sprints afterwards ;)?
    1. If you are a recreational social media consumer, you are having fun with checking out everybody’s vacation photos, online chatting, and tweeting where you are headed on a Friday night or your exasperation with your favorite sports team.
    2. If you are using social media strategically, you are committing to read blogs/books to become more adept (I think Lon Safko’s book The Social Media Bible is a fantastic primer). You are using products like HootSuite or TweetDeck (and Pulse Analytics for heavy-duty social media monitoring) to be more efficient with your publishing and consumption.
  • Don’t Worry about the Score or Grit your Teeth and Go For It: The final score isn’t tallied in a lot of recreational sports. It’s all about the fun and uplifting experience versus the final score. In competitive sports, you learn to take losing personal…and to do what it takes to win within the confines of good sportsmanship.
    1. If you are recreational, who cares about a Klout score; in fact, everybody knows it’s supposed to be spelled Clout, right?!?
    2. If you are tasked with your company’s social media strategy, you are continuously focused on providing new, insightful and engaging content to your community. You become a brand advocate practically 24×7.

So where do you fall on the recreational vs competitive discussion regarding how it prepare our kids? Where do you fall on the social media spectrum? I look forward to the commentary.

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Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

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  1. I feel so new to social media that when you wrote “Klout” I just assumed it was a new computer term I had yet to fully understand… I am glad i am not that green.

    In your debate on recreational vs competitive sports you glossed over the main argument against competitive sports which is the burn out factor and how it can also teach someone to become a quitter, or you can learn to start blamming your lack of success on other people… my mom couldnt take me to all 5 practices this week thats why I am not as good… type of thing.

    • Actually, go to and you will know what I was talking about ;). I feel like I glossed over two concerns to keep it under 1,000 words. The first would be the burnout you discuss. We’ve all seen it with this generation both athletically and academically. By the time these kids hit college, they can’t stand the sport…or maintaining the academic diligence…that they did for a good portion of their lives. They try to “throw off the yoke”.

      The other topic is sportsmanship, and that is why I hyperlinked a previous blog I wrote on it. I come from the old school of grit your teeth, bear down, and go for the win. However, at no time do you sacrifice sportsmanship! My original draft had another bullet point that discussed Winning and Losing with Grace (good sportsmanship). Again, didn’t want the post to get too long, so will follow with another discussion later.

      Thanks for the great insight.

  2. There is definitley a distinction between competitive sport and social sport and the training required for each. The confusion and friction starts in teams when you get people who want to train socially though play in a competitive environment.

    One of the biggest mistakes as a coach is to assume that people who play in a competitive competition want to do the training required. There is a time and a place for social sport and a time and a place for competitive sport and the distinction between the two needs to be made between competitive and social rather than just lumping them both under the generic term, sport.

    People who train for competitive sport do have fun, though they get their enjoyment from working hard, Pushing themselves, Improving their skills, Improving their understanding of their sport, Raising their standards and Exceeding their limits.

    • “The confusion and friction starts in teams when you get people who want to train socially though play in a competitive environment.” That comment is spot-on, Robin. Seen it damage team morale. Of course even the level of effort is a gray and wide range for competitive! I came from Texas high school football before UIL rules crackdown. 2-a-days were about 5 1/2 hours total…brutal, but couldn’t argue with results. And everybody was on the same page…or at least the parents in some cases (whole separate topic)


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