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.
As 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.
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.