The Struggle versus The Triumph

Justin Reid-Ross is an international field hockey player from South-Africa, playing for AH&BC in Amsterdam. He studies the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute, and explains us how challenging it is to deal with success, failure and disempowerment

The Olympics Games is the Mecca of the sporting world. As hockey players we grow up dreaming of participating on that ultimate stage. If we are fortunate enough, that opportunity presents itself once in a lifetime.

Success and failure are both part and parcel of top-level sport, but participation allows us the opportunity to experience those sensations. Without participation, we would never be able to feel the agony of failure, but we would also have to live without the exhilaration of success. My Olympic experience until now has been one of trials and challenges. My name is Justin Reid-Ross, hockey player in the South African men’s team, currently playing in The Netherlands, balancing sports with studying the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam.

The history goes that in 2000, the South African men’s hockey team qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney, but was not sent, and therefore did not participate. That was before my time as an international hockey player, but I clearly remember the distinct feeling of dreams being shattered. Not only those of the players who would be missing out on the Games of 2000, but also for the players of my generation who would not be able to watch their hockey heroes competing against the best in the world.


Justin Reid-Ross awarded top scorer Dutch Field Hockey League 2014-2015

In 2012 we – I was a member of the team by then – had to qualify twice for the London Olympics: first, by winning the African Continental Championship, the official qualification criteria, and then again by winning the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which we did. London 2012 was the highlight of my sports career. I loved every second of the experience but I left craving more. Four years later, and a similar, yet worse situation exists. We have qualified according to the official FIH criteria, but our own Olympic Committee has chosen not to send us to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The reason is that our team is not likely to compete for a medal. The hockey competition in Rio will be dominated by the “Big Four”: World champions Australia, Olympic champions Germany, European champions The Netherlands and perennial top 4 team England, all have the chance of medaling. Throw into the mix; Belgium, Argentina, India and Spain, and the top 8 at the tournament becomes quite crowded with quality teams who have all been preparing for a long period of time, with almost unlimited resources.


Perhaps providing young sportspeople a glimpse into the passion and pride that comes along with representing your nation at the Olympics, as well as the chance to write a little bit of history with a possible top-ten finish, would be a more important and more realistic target. Handling success with humility and failure with dignity, is a great challenge for sportspeople, but are both infinitely easier than watching your dreams evade you because of something outside your control. That is something that I don’t believe you could ever prepare for.

I feel fortunate that I was given the chance to balance my sports career with studying the Master in Sport Management; it creates new opportunities in sports on my horizon. I also do hope that the words of the Olympic Creed leave their mark on the people who held our dreams in their hands. “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

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Johan Cruyff Institute uses a rich learning environment that fosters educational tools based on a
student interaction model. We aim for a mix of students from sports and business sectors, which also enables students to share their unique experiences and learn from each other. Students will engage actively in creative challenges that require effort, commitment and intuitive thinking. Visit these web pages to find out more about our Masters:

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