How sport helps you meet your core needs

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Core Needs.

(If you haven’t read it yet, maybe do so first. I’ll wait!).

In the blog, I wrote about how to score yourself against the 6 human desires that ultimately lead to showing how fulfilled you are (and can be!) in life.

Given that I not only work in the sports industry but that I love sport to the point of silliness and increasing the risk of divorce, I thought it might be useful to run through why I think that sport is life and life is sport.


While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I simply find it odd when someone says they genuinely dislike sport of any kind.

That’s not because I believe that they should align with my beliefs or likes; on the contrary, differences in choices and opinions should be embraced! What I do believe is that sport meets all of our core needs like not many other activities do.

Allow me to indulge you further:

Security (I need my happy place): If you are part of a team sport, training grounds and match venues are more often than not places where one can get away from life’s troubles. They provide familiar, usually welcoming settings where you get to have fun with people who more often than not become your good mates. For individual sports where no-one else is present (or only one in the form of a training partner or coach), the comfort of being able to practise your craft in simple settings gives that person the required headspace. In both circumstances, though, there is the possibility that this need is not met due to the nature of their settings (ie some individuals might require more people than just a coach).

Significance (I need recognition): possibly the main reason why people play sport, over and above fun. With winning comes the pats on the back, the hero status and the Facebook posts of congrats. It feels good, especially when you’re not used to success (just ask Leicester City, Cronulla Sharks, Western Bulldogs!).

Challenge (I’m good enough): when you suck at a skill, it’s very easy to quit. Or, worse still, to let that negative self-talk manifest over time as limiting beliefs. That’s why sport gives you the opportunity to keep turning up, keep improving and give yourself recognition when even the little things get better. Even at age 34, I am learning new sporting skills (CrossFit and Aussie Rules footy) and I have noticed huge improvements up to now. As the old adage goes, “You don’t stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing!” For elite athletes, there is always breaking the current world record, or winning “one more title.”

Freedom (I need some control and variety): with the plethora of available sports (and new ones sprouting up all the time – what the hell is kabaddi?) and exercise routines out there, you could literally start a new activity or routine each week and still not be done by the time it comes to push up the daisies! And joining a team, turning up to training or being disciplined enough to do exercise is totally in your control. I also love the balance that comes with sport, particularly grafting your guts out on the paddock and then having a few frothies afterwards. Bliss.

Belonging (I need to be loved): what could be better than a team environment than a place to find your belonging? And especially one where people have similar outlooks on life. It’s good to be multi-identity (no, not schizophrenic!) as it diversifies your energy and your state of mind. When it comes to elite athletes, they carve an identity through their sport and therefore often start thinking, “I am an athlete and nothing else, and in order for people to love me, I need to perform (well)”. This is one of the challenges we face in our athlete career transition business, as athletes are so much more than just that, and very few actually acknowledge their other identities.

The 1995 World Cup-winning Springboks

Contribution (I need to make a difference): Growing up in South Africa in the 1990s, I was exposed to another world, one of poverty and the underprivileged. I am not ashamed to admit that I took a lot for granted – that was just my reality – but we were often encouraged to volunteer to coach in the townships, bring sandwiches every Wednesday for the homeless and provide basic consumables for our hired help at home. I think specifically how sport is a huge catalyst for social change; following the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup win in 1995, lots of coaching clinics sprung up, and players and coaches were inspired to take action. Further afield, Manny Pacquiao and David Vabora have also done wonders in their contributions to make the world a better place.

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