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It’s Not About What You Got – It’s About What You Make of What You’ve Got

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Dramatic Sunrise over Doo Lough in the Delphi Valley County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. Photo: http://photoimagery.net/

Fundamental to sports and recreation is the necessity, at times, to improvise. Mike Tyson may have captured this idea best when he said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And we all realize, what may come of improvisation just might reach – far beyond our expectations…

Yes – this is the bedrock of sports and recreation – to take stock of one’s resources, to encounter, to recapitulate, to identify what you’ve got – and to go from there. In effect, to improvise, adapt, and overcome. As deep-seated as this is to the essence of sports and recreation, it is, perhaps also – to all life struggles. Take for example, from history…

In the late 19th Century, Irish tenant farmers were raging about the high rent they were being required to pay to their English landlords. So, the decided to get organized. To take a look at what they had. In doing so, they banded together, and their movement swept across Ireland almost overnight – and interestingly, they birthed a tactic that has become a standard for non-violent activism throughout the decades ever since…

Among the first to be the mark of these Irish farmers’ resistance efforts was a British estate manager in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. The Irishmen requested that he reduce his rent charges because there had been a bad harvest. His response was less than peacemaking – he brought in the constabulary to evict his Irish tenants!

The dislodged Irishmen and their band of farmers responded in a way that became the buzz of conversation the world over. Local residents refused to sell the Brit any supplies. They even refused to talk to him! Instead, they ignored him whenever he appeared in public. They taunted him, and mocked him – with their silence. And, to add an exclamation to their silence, they also refused to pick his crops.

He was compelled to try to convince his wife and daughters to harvest the estate’s crops. His most convincing argument to try to get them to do this was that they would have the protection of doing so under the watchful eye of the local constables. Not surprisingly, this didn’t work – his nerve soon broke, and he fled to England shortly thereafter.

The estate manager has been dead now for over 100 years – but, his name has outlived him, forever attached to the revolutionary tactic first used against him – Charles Cunningham Boycott.

Sources: Beyer, R. (2003). The greatest stories never told. Harper Collins: New York

By Dr. Rodney J. Blackman

Dr. Rodney J. Blackman is the Chair of Recreation Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at rblackman@ussa.edu.

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