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There are key archetypal journeys that keep presenting themselves in life.  We resonate with connection when we see them.  One is the journey from the Coward to the Hero archetype.

I think we watch sports to see this archetype at play.  It is a demonstration of the mastery of the skills to get the job done.  We watch allies strategize and work together to reach their goal (to breach the other team’s net).

I watched an elite men’s soccer game over Christmas and was struck by how magnificent it is to watch them collide into each other and just shake it off.  They are so rugged!  A bruise along the way is a badge of honor as they strive to achieve their purpose.  They work hard.  Their focus is razor sharp.

My favorite part is watching hockey players when they find the edge between the drive to win and compliance with the rules.  Or better, the self-control to be sportsman-like while fired up like an animal for the kill.

Except, this boundary of self -regulation is getting harder and harder to see.  The 2011 Stanley Cup series of Vancouver against Boston was the complete opposite of this integrity.  It seemed that whatever you could get away with behind the ref’s back was admirable.  Pokes with a stick to the ribs, an extra check after the whistle to build fear and possible hesitation in the future was great if the ref didn’t see.  The Sedin twins were mocked as unmanly for their refusal to engage in Cowardly behaviours. Flight or fight is the heroic response to danger and I think they rightly assessed avoidance as the best route. 

The shadow archetype of the Coward, aka the Bully, has become revered in our culture.  The riots that followed the game in Vancouver would suggest this is true.  We need to reflect on the repeat of behaviour that was encouraged or considered normal in the game.  The shadow archetype is in all of us.  If we deny its existence we can’t make choices to move from cowardly to heroic behaviour.

Concussions have become a serious side effect of playing the game of hockey.  We are denied the magnificent skill and heroic play of Sidney Crosby because society failed to be outraged when the Coward became revered.

This aggressive form of hockey that fails to maintain the distinction between reaching your goal and acting with respect towards others is being practiced in kid’s leagues now, too.  The societal norm is so strong that parents comply despite spending their time in the stands praying their son doesn’t end the game with a concussion (The Globe and Mail, January 5, 2012)..

Interestingly, parents with kids in the girl’s league are just enjoying the game.  I found the women’s hockey at the Olympics was highly enjoyable.  It was more about skill than fear of injury.   I wonder if we will see a time where boys start lobbying to be able to play in the girl’s league.

We need to become conscious of the archetypes at play around us.  It we recognized the Coward archetype in Bully behaviour we’d have the tools to banish him from the game – and save a few hero’s noggins!