Justin Reid-Ross is an international field hockey player from South-Africa, playing for AH&BC in Amsterdam. He studies the Master in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute and explains us how challenging is to deal with success, failure and disempowerment
The Olympic Games is the Mecca of the sporting world. As hockey players we grow up dreaming of participating on that ultimate stage. If we are fortunate enough, that opportunity presents itself once in a lifetime.
Success and failure are both part and parcel of top-level sport, but participation allows us the opportunity to experience those sensations. Without participation, we would never be able to feel the agony of failure, but we would also have to live without the exhilaration of success. My Olympic experience until now has been one of trials and challenges. My name is Justin Reid-Ross, hockey player in the South-African men’s team, currently playing in The Netherlands, balancing sports with studying the Master in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam.
The history goes that in 2000, the South African men’s hockey team qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney, but was not sent, and therefore, did not participate. That was before my time as international hockey player, but I clearly remember the distinct dreams being shattered. Not only those of the players who would be missing out on the Games of 2000, but also for the players of my generation who would not be able to watch their hockey heroes competing against the best in the world.
In 2012 we – I was a member of the team by then – had to qualify twice for the London Olympics: first, by winning the African Continental Championship, the official qualification criteria, and then again by winning the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which we did. London 2012 was the highlight of my sports career. I loved every second of the experience but I left craving more. Four years later, a similar – yet worse- situation exists. We have qualified according to the official FIH criteria, but our own Olympic Committee has chosen not to send us to Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The reason is that our team is not likely to compete for a medal. The hockey competition in Rio will be dominated by the ‘Big Four’: Australia (World Champion), Germany (Olympic Champion), The Netherlands (European Champion) and England, all of them have the chance of winning a medal. Throw into the mix: Belgium, Argentina, India and Spain, and the top 8 at the tournament become quite crowded with quality teams who have all been preparing for a long period of time, with almost unlimited resources.
Perhaps providing young sportspeople a glimpse into the passion and pride that comes along with representing your nation at the Olympics, as well as the chance to write a little bit of history with a possible top-ten finish, would be a more important and more realistic target. Handling success with humility and failure dignity, is a great challenge for sportspeople, but are both infinitely easier than watching your dreams evade you because of something outside your control. That is something that I don’t believe you could ever prepare for.
I feel fortunate that I was given the chance to balance my sports career with studying the Master in Sport Management; it creates new opportunities in sports on my horizon. I also do hope that the words of the Olympic Creed leave their mark on the people who held our dreams in their hands. “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”.