Tagged : psychology

The end of organised sports

The end of organised sports

What sport did you do when you were a kid? Played football? Basketball? Tennis perhaps? I bet you quit doing this by the age of 18 (probably even earlier). Whatever the reason, you’re not alone. In the Netherlands 80 percent of all kids quit organised sports by the time they turn 18. In the United States the situation is even worse. A staggering 70 percent of all kids quit by the time they turn 13 (!). Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF wanted to know why and what they can do about it. We helped them and turned our idea into a company along the way.

logos netflix cnn facebook twitterAs it turns out the answer to the first question (why do we quit organised sports) is fairly simple. And no, it’s not because we don’t like to sport anymore. Instead, the world changed, we changed. Because of the Internet our world slowly changes in an individualistic and on demand centric society. Want to buy music? Visit iTunes. Watch a movie? Launch Netflix. Interact with people? Use Facebook. Check out the news? Visit Twitter or CNN.com. These modern technologies change the way we live, the way we communicate and even change the way our brains work. We’re so accustomed to buying and doing things whenever and wherever we want that we can’t imagine ourselves to schedule anything weeks in advance anymore. Hence, we even start to treat our jobs like this. Many of us are allowed to do our job whenever and wherever we want, as long as our results are good. As it turns out this is exactly how we think about sports as well. We don’t care how we sport, as long as we get the result we want.

So, what results do we want? To meet other people? Sure, this used to be a primary reason, but it’s not our goal anymore. We see other people 24/7 on Facebook, hang out with friends and love to meet new people. For this, we don’t need sports anymore. Instead, most people use sports to stay in shape, lose weight, gain muscles, feel healthy or simply to show off (yep, those people exist too). The fact of the matter is we can achieve these goals without organised sports. Of course, playing football in a team is lots of fun, but it needs to fit my schedule. I want to practice it whenever and wherever I want, I only care about the results.

You must think I’m exaggerating. Do we really think like this? Well, yes. What are the most popular sports for students and (young) professionals? Jogging, running, cycling, swimming or the gym. Yep, these are all individualistic sports which can be practiced wherever and whenever you want. This is exactly why starchitect Rem Koolhaas loves to swim. He travels the world and has a schedule which doesn’t allow  fixed moments to sport. But he can swim whenever and wherever he wants (every city has a swimming pool). Another example is Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, founder of The Next Web. Every once in a while a tweet comes by where @Boris proudly presents us with his running time (“2,15 km at a 5’11″/km pace”). As is the case with Koolhaas, Boris sports wherever and whenever he wants and reaches his goal while doing it.

Most of us travel a lot less, but the idea stays the same. I for example love to bike. On quiet days I sometimes bike for hours, on busy days I don’t bike at all. So, why always sport on the exact same time and location every week? The world doesn’t work like that anymore. Heck, my brain doesn’t work like that anymore, which obviously is bad news for all traditional sports clubs like tennis, football and basketball.

After we discovered the problem we came up with a solution. Together with Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF we created a website which offers organised sports on demand. As you know, we branded it kiozk.com and tested the idea in Groningen. Amsterdam is next. Kiozk essentially is a long list with sport activities based on the users current time and location. Think of activities like ‘play tennis for an hour’, ‘join our basketball team for training’ or ‘try Taekwondo’. Users browse the list of activities and there’s always a sport which can be practiced.

Sounds great? Well, not so fast. To our surprise most organised sports clubs couldn’t be persuaded to join Kiozk, not even with the help of Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF. The most important reason not to join? Most clubs were unhappy about the idea to offer sports on demand. As someone put it, “we’re in the business of memberships, we’re not interested in someone who joins our club just one time.” This forced us to let go our sport-centric model and approach other organizers of activities, not related to sports, as well. With huge success. We now have museums, lot’s of nightlife, lectures, tours and big events in Kiozk. Suddenly some commercial sport clubs saw the potential and also joined. Even FC Groningen, one of the most well known professional football clubs, is now part of Kiozk. Ironically we now have everything but the traditional sport clubs. It seems they continue to deny what’s happening.

Desktop en mobiele Kiozk

Let’s hope the organised sports soon realise their way of doing business needs to be adjusted to again excite students and (young) professionals to join. We still love organised sports… Their system just doesn’t fit in our world anymore.

The color of luck

My summer holiday of 2012 was a 3000 mile road trip in the United States. It was one of my best holidays ever. So, how come I never wrote about it here? The answer is simple. Since I arrived back in the Netherlands, I’ve been quite busy creating something (more on that in the future). Surprisingly, I finally found some time to write about the USA trip… Today, it’s time for part seven; “The color of luck”.

In Las Vegas, I met Dave. He told me everything in Vegas is done for a reason. For example, the Chinese color of luck is red, which is something you should remember in case you ever want to start your own casino.

Dave works at the Encore casino in Las Vegas. Together with the adjacent Wynn, which is owned by the same organization, this is one of the most luxurious hotels and casino’s in the world (with a combined price tag of about five billion dollars). One day, I strolled around the casino floor, where almost no people were present. Actually, the ratio of staff to customers was about 3 – 1, which means there’re way more staffers than customers. This was also true for the game Dave was responsible for.

He supervises a game – of which I don’t know the name of – but it involves a long table, some dice, five staffers and by the time I walked by, just a single customer. The supervisor wasn’t too busy supervising, since the other four employees needed something to do as well. This allowed me to ask him the one obvious question: “Why are there so many employees present at this table?” The supervisor, Dave, told me it’s a money issue. Over a million dollars was present on the table… sigh.

After that, our conversation continued for about an hour. Dave allowed me to ask him anything, like what happens when the power goes out (there’s an entire protocol for that), how much money he ever saw someone win on a single day (over 10 million dollars), or lose (over 4 million) and I asked if he ever met a celebrity (he met Ben Affleck just a short while ago). While this was all fun, the most interesting part of the conversation came when I started to ask questions about the architecture and design of the casino. I learned about the bold vision of Steve Wynn (the owner) for the Wynn and Encore casino’s and why casino’s are built the way they’re built. Also, Dave told me about the impact of the economic crisis (the Encore opened in 2008, just a few months after the crisis broke out). Then, our conversion shifted to China.

The Chinese elite continues to have deep pockets, which is why Steve Wynn – the owner of the casino – wants to attract as many people from China as possible. Therefore, Dave pointed out, the Encore casino has lots of ‘little’ details to appeal to the Chinese. Everything inside is done for a reason. For example, the Chinese color of luck is red… so, take a guess which color is most abundant inside the casino (hint: Check out the photos below). This ‘little’ detail is one of the reasons why the Encore is the most popular destination for Chinese gamblers in Las Vegas, which keeps the casino afloat during the economic crisis and gave me a reason to write about it. Thanks Dave!

The Encore is a true red casino. Most notably, it has a red floor and red chandeliers. These chandeliers are extremely expensive, they cost tens of thousands of dollars a piece.

Does this feel Chinese to you? To me, it does.

There’s more of the outdoor inside the Encore than at any other casino in Vegas. For example, check out these beautiful skylights.

My next stop: Chicago

Previous posts

Part 1: Exceeded expectations
Part 2: Google vs. Apple
Part 3: Look left! … No, look right!
Part 4: Johnny Depp
Part 5: Big, bigger, biggest
Part 6: The most beautiful road of the world

Johnny Depp

My summer holiday of 2012 was a 3000 mile road trip in the United States. It was one of my best holidays ever. So, how come I never wrote about it here? The answer is simple. Since I arrived back in the Netherlands, I’ve been quite busy creating something (more on that in the future). Surprisingly, I finally found some time to write about the USA trip… Today, it’s time for part four; “Johnny Depp”.

During our stay in Los Angeles, we saw many of the great studios like Universal, Paramount and Disney. Also, we toured Warner Brothers Studios, which was a great experience. During the Warner tour, we realized how many things were fake. The houses… fake. Lines on the road… removable. The streetlights… fake as well.  Even the cladding of the buildings can be removed and replaced by other styles.

After seeing all these fake things, it was great to learn about something very real… which is Johnny Depp, the Hollywood actor.

The Disney Guy

We met a very friendly employee at Disney Studios. He’s a Mickey Mouse Company veteran, which prompted us to ask if he ever met a celebrity like… wel… ehm… Steven Spielberg? Unfortunately, he did not. But he did meet Johnny Depp several times. Which makes sense, since he plays the character of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, a major Disney production.

He told us there’s no Johnny Depp when a Pirate movie is in production at Disney Studios. Depp’s ID tag (including the photo) refers to him as Captain Jack Sparrow. Also, it’s contractually agreed that all Disney employees should refer to him as either Jack, mr Sparrow or Captain Jack Sparrow. This allows Johnny Depp to stay in character during the entire shoot, both on and off camera. Which is exactly why Jack Sparrow feels so real… because there’s no Johnny Depp when there’s Captain Jack Sparrow.

Fake turns real

I love this story, because it shows how serious this Hollywood actor is about his performance. And it shows how fake he has to be in real life (he even orders coffee while being a pirate) in order to become a real character on the big screen. Which is also true for a studio like Warner Brothers. It’s the most fake environment you’ll ever see (check out the red arrows below), but on the big screen… it’s real.

My next stop: Sequoia National Park

Previous posts

Part 1: Exceeded expectations
Part 2: Google vs. Apple
Part 3: Look left! … No, look right!

Why a superprovince isn’t the solution

I’m concerned about something for quite some time now. Currently, there’s a discussion in the Netherlands about the so called ‘superprovince’. The Dutch government is planning to merge three provinces into a single big one. This so called superprovince includes the city of Amsterdam and houses over 4 million people.

It’s not the actual merger I’m concerned about. No, it’s the reason why. Doing this based on a vision is great. But the Dutch government appears to have none… unless you count ‘money’ as being a vision. Politicians argue it’s more efficient to centralize the government, which means less managers and more efficiency, thus more decisiveness and a better competitiveness. This results in more jobs and even more money.

But… if a merger of three provinces makes governing more efficient… why not merge five provinces? Or seven? Or why not all twelve?

“We have to do this”

That’s where the “we have to do this” argument comes in. I love this argument, since it’s one of the most commonly used arguments. The beauty is, you can use it for anything. Think, let’s say, of the airline merger which was announced last week. American and US Airways want to merge because the competition merged a couple of years ago. If the argument can be used by commercial airlines, it most surely can be used by the Dutch government as well.

So, why does the Dutch government “have to do this”? Well, competition from other countries and cities is growing stronger. Think of Paris and London, who try to attract the same Fortune 500 companies as we do. If we make Amsterdam and our main metropolitan area stronger (the superprovince), we’ll stay ‘in the game’.

Well, that makes sense. Maybe the superprovince isn’t such a bad idea after all. One question: What happens when our competitors respond by growing bigger as well?

San Francisco Bay Area merger

Recently I found an example which illustrates what happens then. It turns out the San Francisco Bay Area, which is the 13th largest economy of the world, wants to merge for almost identical reasons (but on a larger scale). This merger of the Bay area, which includes the city of San Francisco and Silicon Valley (home to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and eBay) would result in a superprovince which houses 6,9 million people and gives them a lead over cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and London.

Wait, hold on a second. London? Are the British going to be affected by this on-other-side-of-the-world-merger? If so, London has to act in order to stay in the game. And if London acts… we have to do something too. Maybe we can merge our superprovince with another one or two provinces… That’ll give us a change. Right?!

Why follow the others?

This is exactly why I’m concerned by the current situation. Ultimately, we’re forced to follow the others’ lead, grow when they grow and increase efficiency when they do the same. And this cycle repeats itself over and over again. Instead, I believe the Netherlands should focus on its own strengths. Doing so, it’s good to realize we have a major advantage. We’re a (densely populated) country with about 17 million people, which should make us competitive with about any western city or region in the world. Hence, let’s only merge things that make sense.

Why not establish a true national police force, a nationwide fire-response system, a few highly specialized hospitals at strategic locations, a nationwide public transit system which encompasses the entire country and a single national park service.

This leaves us with municipalities. They’re ideal to take care of services which require to be close to the people. Like social services, education and basic health care services. This makes it absolutely clear what a municipality is… it’s the local government.

A local and central government

I believe we don’t need another superprovince. Instead, let’s emphasize and strengthen the areas in which the local an central government excel at. Local government is close to the people while the central government is all about big plans and the big picture. Isn’t that all we need for a small country like the Netherlands?

Google vs. Apple

My summer holiday of 2012 was a 3000 mile road trip in the United States. It was one of my best holidays ever. So, how come I never wrote about it here? The answer is simple. Since I arrived back in the Netherlands, I’ve been quite busy creating something (more on that in the future). Surprisingly, I finally found some time to write about the USA trip… Today it’s time for part two; “Google vs. Apple”.

Second stop, Silicon Valley, California. It’s the place where companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and thousands of small technology startups have their headquarters. Since I’m interested in technology and use Apple and Google products every day, I decided it would be great to visit these two companies in their real Silicon Valley habitat.

Apple

Apple is well known for its vertically integrated products. It is impossible to (legally) install an app on my iPhone without using the Apple App Store. And their operating system (Mac OSX) only runs on Macbooks and iMacs only. They simply want to be in control of everything. The same applies to their Cupertino headquarters at One Infinite Loop.

Outside, the grass is mown with greatest precision, bushes and flowers are aligned perfectly and the building looks very ‘introvert’. Apple is in full control. Nonetheless, it was possible to go inside and take a quick look at their courtyard.

The same desire for control is apparent here. The courtyard is designed with ‘oversight’ as purpose. There are not trees, no hidden corners, there’s nowhere to ‘hide’ for its employees. But at least they tried to make it look a bit more fun by adding the parasols.

Google

Google’s next. It’s the company who brings us software like Google Search, Gmail, Chrome and Android. Their software, contrary to Apple, can be used by nearly everyone on almost any device. Google believes in an open society, which can be seen in the way they set up their Mountain View headquarters.

There are no fences to stop tourists, they even allowed us to walk among Google staffers in the courtyard at the Googleplex.

There are Google bikes everywhere. These GBikes are used to pedal from one building to another and are free of charge for employees.

Also, Google staffers can use many recreational facilities, like a volleyball court. How cool is that!

And what to think of Stan, the life-sized T-Rex skeleton that lives in the middle of the campus?

But Google definitely won the cool-factor for their headquarters when I saw the driverless Google car which drove around on the parking lot.

It will be interesting to see which of these companies will ultimately win the software battle. Google (open) or Apple (closed). Meantime, based on my visits, Google decisively won the real-world headquarters battle. But how long will their victory last?

Update: In November 2013 I wrote about the new Apple Headquarters. Click here for the article.

My next stop: Highway 1

Read part one of my USA trip here.