Sport should be more than just spectacle, says athlete and journalist

Laura Jane Robinson

One of the most important pieces of advice Laura Jane Robinson received was from her history professor at York who told her if she really wants to understand a society, don’t look at what they do for work, look at what they do for play.

 Laura Jane Robinson“That wisdom and plenty more gave me the confidence 22 years ago to look beyond who won or who lost in sports and try to find in a deep way why people like to move. Why we like to go fast and play games,” Robinson told the graduating students of the Faculty of Health Friday at York’s 2012 Spring Convocation ceremony.

Robinson, who received an honorary doctorate of laws degree from York at the ceremony, said, “I came to believe that the pleasure of physical movement just might be more important than the gross national product.”

An athlete, author, freelance journalist, coach, mentor and pioneer in the movement for women’s visibility, equity and opportunity in athletics, Robinson stressed the importance of balance in sports to the graduating students.

“You, as health professionals, need to see sport not as entertainment, but objectively so the athletes who play it have the opportunity to live a full life with brains and bodies that haven’t been sacrificed at the altar of the Don Cherry version of hockey and masculinity,” she told graduands.

That balance is off kilter when football becomes spectacle in the form of a women’s league playing in their bra and panties and not much else, including safety equipment or when bicyclists have to compete for road space, often losing the battle. She told students that health professionals and urban designers need to work together in developing safer spaces for cyclists, whether they are riding to school, to work or for pleasure.

“How well the active body moves using its own energy to transport itself from A to B, as cyclists and pedestrians do, is mainly contingent upon how we design the built environment,” said Robinson. “We need to understand public space as a place where hearts, lungs and quadriceps thrive.”

York’s 2012 Spring Convocation ceremonies are streamed live and then archived online. To view Robinson’s convocation address, visit the Convocation website.