Founder of Good Sport, Ben Clement, On Reinventing the Traditional Sports Magazine
Focusing on a wide spectrum of sport that bridges the gap between professional and amateur, Good Sport, is reinventing the traditional sports magazine. Its founder, Ben Clement, started the publication in 2014 with the aim to break down barriers and delve into a diverse range of topics through a sporting lens - be it architecture, design, food, science, travel, sub-cultures, or social justice. In this short interview Ben tells us how Good Sport first came to fruition, how it differs from mainstream sports mags, and the pertinence GS has for recreational athletes all over the world.
So Ben, can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you do, and how Good Sport fits into your life?
Hey Mantra! I’m from a beautiful part of Aotearoa, New Zealand called Tairawhiti. It’s where I picked up a camera for the first time, learnt to skateboard, and became obsessed with basketball. I also did a bit of running in my youth but my passion for that came a lot later.
I started the magazine in 2014 with a couple of other people. So the light-bulb idea was what I guess you could call a 'triangle of ideas' coming together. The others who were involved in the beginning have since moved onto other things. But I still work with a very small, flexible and nimble team. There’s basically three of us who work on the magazine in different capacities at different times. We’re very thankful to get to work with some amazingly talented photographers and writers from around the world. Good Sport, I think, is becoming a bit more of an organic process and integrated part in my life. My relationship with the magazine has changed a lot over the years. Whether that's my relationship with sport or making a magazine, I’m not entirely sure just yet.
"It’s not so challenging when you trust who you're
working with and also let that person breathe with their style/aesthetic. But a strong brief is key."
How do you usually go about finding stories and contributors for each issue? How challenging is this process?
It’s a mix of people submitting their work and us utilising our network of people we’ve come to know over time as well as having a strong vision for what we’re looking for and approaching certain people for specific projects.
It’s not so challenging when you trust who you're working with and also let that person breathe with their style/aesthetic. But a strong brief is key. The most challenging part is financing things. We don’t take on traditional advertising and prefer to work with a sponsorship model. Most revenue comes from magazine sales.
How do you think the lessons we learn from the recreational athletes in GS differ from those we learn from the professional?
I think we try and find a balance between both and regardless of who we are interviewing we aim to meet that person where they are at and talk to them without any hierarchy. Our aim is to close the gap between how ‘athletes’ are represented.
What’s one of the most important stories you believe GS has told?
I really believe in the piece we created with the Torture Abolition Centre in Washington DC. The team worked with a range of top runners from places like Ethiopia who had fled to America after facing torture or who had gone to America to earn money to help their families escape torture. It's a quite a sensitive story, to the point we could not share the names or show faces of anyone we spoke with because the story may harm them if it slipped into the wrong hands. One of the runners wanted to challenge this and asked if we could show his face in the photographs. It was very powerful.
What have you learnt about your own capabilities / limits throughout the process?
Oh, too many to count! You quickly learn your limits but since you're working so independently and are challenging and re-working your sales and distribution stream you have to push past any limits and make it work, which in turn reveals new capabilities.
"Balance takes time, and even when you think it’s balanced, something will come along and tip that balance."
What’s the scale of your ambition? What are you hoping to achieve with the magazine?
Right now, we want to continue to champion a wide range of people with interesting interviews and give people who may not have been offered a platform the opportunity to be featured. As well as that, we want to showcase the work of different photographers and writers and allow them a platform to share their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and to experiment.
Between your photography, making a magazine, and working with brands on varying projects, you seem to have your toes dipped in a lot of different creative pursuits. How do you find balance?
I think a lot of what I do comes from being interested in so many things and being curious and excited to give things a go. I always have a strong vision for bringing things to life and enjoy the survival/hustle of doing just that. Balance takes time, and even when you think it’s balanced, something will come along and tip that balance. I’d say to anyone - even myself - be considerate, be critical, ask questions, and then ask a lot more questions before taking action.
Finally, as our name suggests, here at Mantra we’re curious about what keeps our favourite creatives driven and pushing forward. What’s your personal mantra, Ben?
My personal mantra at the moment is one I learnt from my Dad and it’s ‘Flexible Flow’. I also like the mantra 'run fast over the hate'.