Editor's note: As part of CoinDesk’s “Sports Week,” we asked a number of engineers, executives and experts to weigh in on the substantial issues raised by the crypto industry. In this roundtable discussion, they answer the question of how crypto is like a sport.
Crypto, like fencing
I was a nationally ranked epéeist, recruited by the best NCAA Division I Fencing programs. This achievement followed 12 years of hard work, often seemingly divorced from the thrill of a well-executed attack. But to play a dangerous, physical game of chess against an armed opponent and win required instincts, forbearance, stamina and agility.
This meant preparation.
My footwork needed to be swift and sure. My fingers needed dexterity to direct the point of a blade with a flick. I cultivated instincts: How long or short to lunge; which parry to use for different attacks; when and how to riposte (to righties and lefties) and when to trust intuition. Coaches taught me self-possession and patience. I learned to read opponents and develop strategies to win fast five-point bouts and more grueling 15 point bouts. Conditions and opponents were unknown. The skills needed to succeed in fencing are the same as in the ever-transforming crypto landscape.
Crypto requires swift and sure software development, dextrous cryptography, strategic game theory, advanced mathematics, intuitive automation, elegant economics and instincts for navigating the unknown. The industry evolves before internal and external conditions are fully understood. What started with [bitcoin] grew into [initial coin offerings], [decentralized finance] and [non-fungible tokens]. New markets, services, regulatory bodies, professions, skills, products and infrastructure have emerged. What made a successful ecosystem in [proof-of-work] will shift with the Merge. Who will survive? Who will win? Crypto is not for the cautious nor, despite what some would have you believe, for instant gratification.
– Portia Roberts, growth marketing at Blocknative
“You miss 100% of the sats you don’t stack.”
– Will Reeves, CEO of Fold
Personalities and teams
Like the world of sports, notable personalities dominate in crypto. People root for specific players and teams to win or lose, depending on their affiliation. I see the Web3 sector as one big sports league. And every team just fumbled.
Just as we see when sports teams have a considerable loss, there's been a recommitment to winning in the crypto space. We’re building back and coming out stronger than before by making better plays and getting more fans on our side.
– Chris Laurent, co-founder of VHS Lab and Human Park
Crypto is the truest free-for-all competition – that is, the truest free market – the world has yet seen. In crypto, projects develop protocols that compete for usership and capital. But unlike in the arena of professional sports, competition in crypto operates on a completely level playing field, where every user must be not only earned, but retained. In sports, players are largely owned by the teams that they represent in competition; whereas in crypto, community members act as collective owners of the networks and protocols in which they participate.
Crypto has raised a radical and innovative paradigm to the mainstream: an empirically meritocratic environment for competition.
– Alex Shipp, CSO of Offshift
How the money game is played
Crypto requires the mental fortitude of an athlete by being disciplined and focused in your strategies and conviction. Blockchain is an emerging technology that isn’t just a fun widget you can buy, it’s shaking up the foundation of how the money game is played. Being in the crypto space is like being an elite athlete, you have to see the trends, study the tape and take chances when necessary in order to win."
– Ben Armstrong, founder of BitBoy Crypto
The crypto generation
Both sports and crypto require a high level of determination. In the eyes of the status quo, you’re betting against the odds if you take up either of these paths, making your inner conviction all the more important to your success.
Like in boxing, crypto makes you roll with the punches sometimes. Your first couple of down markets as an investor can certainly feel like heavy blows. Whether you’re trading punches in the boxing ring or trading crypto, it’s your skillset, finesse and persistence that will carry you through to a win.
In both crypto and sports, there is always an element of being in the right place at the right time. The advancements in crypto happening now are unlocking countless possibilities for people around the world – financially, creatively and organizationally. When football was first broadcast on TV, think about how many kids that inspired to take to the field. We’re now seeing a similar phenomenon emerge with a crypto-native generation.
– Simon Jones, CEO of Voltz Labs
I don’t know if you’ve ever been picked last for [a team in] gym class, but I have. I was reminded of the feeling the first time I purchased crypto at its all-time high. It’s a regrettable situation, but at least I got in the game. This is crypto, regardless of how often we fluctuate or dip, we’ll reorganize and learn. We continue to do this due to the love of the “game.” At the end of the day, regardless of which team emerges victorious, the league will still continue to grow. And what’s clearly apparent is that we’re barely halfway into the first quarter.
Best of the best
When playing a sport you must always try and predict the next move of the other players. You have to stay vigilant to anticipate what’s coming and be able to react quickly. It’s vitally important for you to understand the game on a micro and macro level, and to build a talented, dedicated team to ensure you’re playing at your best. You have to keep your head in the game no matter what the conditions, and always rally when things look grim. Playing with the best of the best pushes you to do better, and in our industry, we’re constantly inspired by our peers.
See also: 10 Crypto Sports All-Stars
This is crypto in a nutshell – a challenging, dynamic sport, full of healthy competition and collaboration that keeps us striving to perform at the next level. We just need to keep our eye on the ball, pace ourselves accordingly (it's a marathon, not a sprint!), and let our love of the game lead us.
Similar to sports, crypto requires a person to be aware of their environment, motivated enough to endure setbacks and to think both granularly and at a high level. Even with all of the rapid growth and increased adoption being seen in the industry recently, crypto at large is still in its formative stages. In such a stage, those involved must be able to look around and determine true signals from noise. As an industry that is not exempt to volatility, someone in crypto should be able to appreciate wins and losses alike. With all of the daily activity surrounding popular tokens, exchanges and memes, it pays to be able to focus on the fine details as well as the overarching trends.
– Ryan Berkun, CEO of Teller
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