Archive | April, 2013

Potential versus Performance. The Social Media Effect on Australian Sport

1 Apr

The Daily Telegraph has always been the main culprit for branding people ‘champions’ before it was warranted. They once referred to  Jarred Hayne as the ‘Don Bradman’ of rugby league when he had a 7 week streak of ‘Man of the Match’ performances back in 2009. Jared built his career on this press, believed their words but since then, has produced very little.

Now there is a bigger threat and it is Social Media. Due to the impact of social media, a player can have a couple of good games and instantly become recognisable to many in the public eye. With the introduction of Twitter and Instagram, it gives a sportsman the ability to write their own press. The opportunity for self promotion presents itself any time, anywhere. Who needs a reporter or a photographer? This is a dangerous precedent. The problem is once you invite people into your world, you invite their judgments, criticisms and opinions. Being recognised can bring just as much hate as admiration and being connected 24/7 to social media offers no respite. Little by little, these sportsman orchestrate their own demise by building the pressure of expectation through posts and tweets. It isn’t uncommon for players to post or tweet hours before a match. This is a perfect example of sportsman bringing undue attention and pressure to themselves and their team through social media. Immediately fans are concerned that a player’s mind isn’t on the game and therefore if he (and the team) don’t perform, there is an immediate backlash. Pre-social media, if a player wanted to bring undue pressure to themselves they just wore different coloured boots. This excerpt is in reference to Rugby League legend Graeme Langlands and ‘the white boot affair’

‘Making matters worse, his white football boots were worn as part of a sponsorship deal with Adidas. At the time, black football boots were the norm. Langlands’ white boots were unique on the field, highlighting every mistake he made to the fans. He was originally planning to retire at the end of the Grand Final, but the humiliating experience spurred him to return in 1976, where in the few early-season matches he played his performance was mediocre.’

Just replace the white boots with Twitter and I rest my case. The irony is that nowadays you never see a black pair of boots. Or, is that just a perfect metaphor for the current situation?

Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Quade Cooper, Josh Dugan, Jared Hayne, Mitchell Johnson, Phil Hughes, Digby Ioane, Mitchell Pearce, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja are just a few Australian sportsman that have an over-inflated opinion of their ability. They all have amazing potential but overexposure in social and mainstream media severely impacts their ability to evolve as sportsmen. As a result they struggle to convert potential into performance

This was no more evident than with Former Canberra Raiders player Josh Dugan. He decided to use social media to air his grievance with his club over Instagram and pictured himself with a Breezer in one hand and giving the bird with the other. This was a breach  of team protocol and was followed up with Dugan not showing up to training. Now, he wasn’t exposed by a paparazzi, outed by a disgruntled player or caught in the act. He posted this photo himself. His ego is so huge that he believes a $600,000 contract and club that has looked after him since the juniors is nothing compared to the greatness that he possesses. The reality is, is that Josh Dugan is one injury away from holding a stop/go sign on the side of the road as people laugh at point at the guy with a tattoo of Ray Lewis on his leg. It is a tragedy because he could have been great, but he is in a world where he can’t be humbled. If he plays badly or is warned by his coach to pick up his form he will just seek validation from others – and where better to find that but on social media.

(Side note:I wrote this article before Josh Dugan’s latest indiscretion)

Then we have James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale.

James O’Connor refers to himself as a brand. Are you kidding mate? You play in team that stinks and you can’t even get a regular start in one of the worst Wallaby teams to ever exist. But this doesn’t affect O’Connor. He will take to social media and keep building a ‘brand’ based off his under-performing and his unimpressive career. He is a like a Ferrari that keeps breaking down: excellent in performance but far from reliable. Mr O’Connor, until you have played solid Rugby for over 5 years and have been a part of a team that consistently produces wins, maybe you should house the brand and get back to developing as a player.

Please refer to James O’Connor’s website

Is that ‘Blue Steel’ he is trying to pull off? The only thing he is successfully pulling off is himself.

On a tour with the last-placed Melbourne Rebels, Kurtley Beale had an altercation with two of his playing group while being heavily intoxicated. Apparently he didn’t want to wear the team shirt while socialising. Wow, there’s a surprise! Probably made him look too much like the rest of the team. How would anyone notice him if he looks like everyone else? One of the problems is that Kurtley Beale believes he is better than he is. I have a tip for you Kurtley: leave your hair alone. If you have seen your head there is no chance for a modeling contract so you should use your ‘hair style time’ more effectively and develop your rugby skills. Worse than that, Adam Frier, a Melbourne Rebels spokesman, referred to Beale as ‘one of the greatest indigenous sportsman to play rugby’. Before the Ella brothers can respond, I thought I might on their behalf. What the hell has Kurtley Beale done? Since he came from school boy rugby he has done very little to impact Australian Rugby. In contrast, the Ella brothers changed the way world rugby was played. To group Beale in with these actual legends is ridiculous.

The latest trend from our errant, ill-disciplined sports stars is to claim social issues as a reason for their poor behaviour.

I call bullshit.

Hollywood stars have used this excuse for years to justify their socially inappropriate behavior and to escape public scrutiny. They realised that once you claim you have an “issue” then the public and press will back down. It seems  Australian sportsman have caught onto this technique and are choosing to hide behind real social problems to escape the wrath of the Australian public.

The only problem these sportsmen suffer from are huge egos, a lack of discipline and skewed realities. Going out, getting pissed and carrying on like a prize dickhead doesn’t constitute a problem. Further to that, tweeting where you are drinking or socialising invites the wolves to your door step.  Broadcasting your location is like stitching on a tracking device for the media. Is it any wonder that their every indiscretion is captured?

Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Quade Cooper, Josh Dugan, Jared Hayne, Mitchell Johnson, Phil Hughes, Digby Ioane, Mitchell Pearce, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja are all pretenders. All of the teams they play for are performing terribly. If these are the marquee players then why are all their teams losing? The problem is exacerbated when they are brought together to represent their Australia in their respective codes. They come together as ‘a group of individuals’ and not ‘a team’. As a result there is no cohesion, no team work and no symmetry. They are all there to represent themselves, looking for that solo piece of magic that will set twitter alight and make the highlight reels. Could it be a case of too many brands spoil the broth?

The problem is they skipped the step where they have to develop mentally. They have all the physical attributes but no mental fortitude to apply them.

Whether it be Cricket, Rugby, AFL or Rugby League these players all have the same traits. I thought it was because they were Generation Y but I have since realized that this isn’t the case. They all think they are champions and they maintain this delusion by means of social media. With every tweet, post or tag their bubble grows bigger, stronger, more impenetrable and ends up halting their professional development.

The drop in performance of young Australian sportsman isn’t talent related, it is ego related. When Kim Kardashian and Kanye West do something stupid or attract negative press it impacts them as individuals  What these faux sports stars don’t realize is their negative press implicates a team. Not only that, it breeds discontent in the playing group and results in people like Kurtley Beale being punched in the face by his own team mates.

If you want to be an individual switch to boxing.

Australian sportsman: stop wasting your talent and start applying it. Having the potential to be the best doesn’t mean anything until you are the best. Take a good look at yourself and stop seeking false validation through overexposure. Put your phone down ,forget ‘checking in’ to the ivy pool bar, limit your twitter posts to a minimum , drop the Instagram selfies and apply yourself. You never know, one day you might be great.