In Eric Dunning’s, Dynamics of Modern Sports, Dunning analyzes sports in modern society, how sports have become increasingly competitive and serious. Part of Dunning’s argument is that modern society participates in sports less for pleasure, and more for competition. He also contests that as one increases their level of play- from youth, to high school, to college, to the pros- the seriousness and competiveness of the sport increases. Nonetheless, after attending and participating in multiple University of Michigan sporting events, I can tell you that this is not fully the case.
I have been competing in wrestling for about eight years; I started in middle school and from there wrestled for my high school team, for club teams that competed nationally, and now at the University of Michigan. From my first
match at North Shore Middle School through now, I personally have always taken the same approach. I am going to do whatever it takes to win. As a result of this mentality, I have an extremely serious and competitive attitude to my sport.
When I got to college, a part of me thought that wrestling would change; I thought Dunning would be right, that because I was now in college, the competitions would become more serious and competitive. But while attending my first collegiate wrestling tournament, I thought, “this is the same thing as high school. There are wrestlers, referees, mats, etc. I am trying to win just like I did in high school and middle school.”
At this point, I realized that the talent level of the competition is higher, but that doesn’t mean it is any less competitive or serious. Do I try any harder to win now that I am in college? Did my opponents try less when I was in high school? No, of course not. There is the same mentally to give 100% to win whether an athlete is in high school or in college.
According to Dunning, as I rose up in the “ranks” of competition, (middle school to high school to college) I should have taken my sport more seriously. Nevertheless, I find my level of intensity for the sport has remained constant throughout. Thus, I personally disagree with Dunning’s assertion that as level of competition increases, the sport has become any more competitive.
Since at both levels of athletics competitors are giving the same amount of effort to win, high school athletics are equally competitive to college athletics. Furthermore, because both levels are still “amateur,” there are fewer consequences on the line than the pro level. In both cases, there are no contracts, bonuses or deals on the line. At the high school and college levels, athletes are competing for something that is intangible (i.e. pride, glory, satisfaction, etc). Therefore, the consequences are limited. Despite there being the same level of competiveness, there is a difference between college athletics and high school athletics.
Obviously, the talent and skill at the college level of any sport greatly exceeds that of high school athletics. But how did the college student-athletes get to that level? They were once high school student-athletes; and through a combination of talent, and a lot of hard work, they were able to make it to the college level. If college level athletes didn’t work hard and take their sport seriously in high school, they would have never made it to the college athletics.
However, the seriousness of two levels vary. In college, almost every athlete is serious about their sport. Being around college athletes daily, it is obvious that the majority of college athletes take their sport seriously; they are willing to put in the extra time and effort to succeed.
At the high school level, only a small percentage of athletes are willing to put in the efforts necessary to succeed. And those who do are usually the top high school athletes. This is because many high school athletes don’t take their sport serious enough to put in the time and effort to succeed outside of competition.
College athletes recognize that preparation is everything. The majority of college athletes put hard work into their preparation so they can succeed. Only the top tier high school athletes exert the same seriousness into their athletics as college athletes do. This is a distinct difference between high school and college athletics.
This proves part of Dunning’s argument. Seriousness in athletics does increase as you go from level to level. College athletes are more serious about their sport, so they put more into their preparation.
This does not prove the other half of Dunning’s point; sports from one level to the other are no more serious when they COMPETE. EVERYBODY wants to win. Therefore, all athletes lay it all on the line when they compete. However, as you go up each level, athletes are more serious about their athletics, and therefore are willing to put in the time, effort, and hard work outside of competition to accomplish their goals.