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Smith and Alvarez analyze sports culture

Kellie Galentine
Assistant LV Life Editor

Head softball coach Julie Smith and Paul Alvarez, director of the Athletic Training Education Program, spoke at the International Studies Institute’s Hot Spots lecture Thursday about the effect of politics upon international sports.

The lecture, entitled “International Sports: Athletic Achievement or Political Football?” took place in the President’s Dining Room. The International Studies Institute hosts Hot Spots once a month on varying issues. In light of the Sochi Olympics, the discussion of international sports was brought to the table.

Smith, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist and assistant athletic director, discussed her experiences as an Olympic softball player and player representative. Smith saw the ways in which money and power had the ability to change the nature of a sport during her experiences in the Olympic games.

“When I sat on the board of directors, I saw a side that was baffling because they didn’t really know what direction to go, and it really hurt a lot of athletes,” Smith said.

The Olympics allowed her to see the processes that are laid out and how people in power tried to take advantage of athletes.

Alvarez followed with discussion on his time on the medical staff for the World University Games.

Alvarez said the World University Games is the second largest international sporting event following the Olympics, but the United States does not put a lot of emphasis on them because they are not a big money-maker.

“You want to represent your country for the joy of representing your country,” Alvarez said.

The main issue discussed was the line between wanting to win in order to bring pride to your country, or wanting to win in order to have personal gain. This issue was tied into bringing up young athletes and the lengths some parents go to see their children succeed.

“Obviously we have situations in some states with sports like football where parents will hold their kids back to make a college team,” Alvarez said.

Input from the audience came through following the speakers’ presentations regarding the inevitable blend of sports and politics.

“I think what we have learned is that there are a lot of politics along the way and once you are there it is about the competition,” Gitty Amini, associate professor of political science, said.

A mix of about 30 students and faculty were among the crowd. The audience was highly engaged in discussion, asking questions at the end of the lecture.

“Politics help sports in that they give recognition and publicity but they hurt sports in that they often take away from the meaning of the game,” Colin Fisk, junior political science major, said. “On the international level of sports, there is often a game within the game.”

Kellie Galentine can be reached at

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