For young children, sports is the first arena in their lives where they are given the rudiments of working together to achieve a common result. It is also the first place for many, where they are given an opportunity to experience a sense of team spirit, a camaraderie in which they feel a very special part.
Moreover, for many it is the first time they get to wear a unique uniform that belongs exclusively to that group of people – albeit small people.
In addition, it may be the first time in their lives when they experience a group loss. They have gone on to the field of play – whether it be netball, hockey, soccer, softball or whatever, and they've done their best, yet still lost.
If anything, this gives these youngsters their possibly first sense of community in winning and losing, being part of a team and being in a contest.
Then consider these same young children as they grow into adolescence, then as young people and following this, young adults.
Through sports they can discover some very important things about themselves and others. These are all 'personal development aids' as they grow and mature personally and a citizens of their team, suburb, city, state and nation.
They become aware that losing a sports match is not the end of the world, but they also become aware that winning has only a fleeting sense of empowerment. Memories become important as they visualise their particular feat on the sport's pitch which may last a life time, but one in which is entirely in their own heart and more than likely, exclusive to them.
I can recall such an event in my own mind's eye for which I've enjoyed over and over again as I have relived that particular sporting moment. I was captain of the Illawarra Men's Representative Hockey Team and we played Goulburn in Goulburn (Goulburn is a massive hockey town) and we managed a draw, which was unheard of in the annuls of such representative contests.
As captain I played a blinder and had two of their defenders marking me throughout the match leaving them short in attack. No one else would have that memory, but it is precious to me as it was the first time I led the representative team. That was one of the days a State selector was watching and invited me to join the NSW training squad.
Youngsters participating in sport also develop a sense of their own worth. I recall a teenage girl who had a sense of self worthlessness until she discovered she was rather good at the trampoline. It changed her entire life. She began feeling positive about herself, and liked the sense of empowerment within her, especially when others noticed her trampoline excellence. (The same applies if you show a proclivity at science or maths or music … whatever).
Stories such as this are legion, as are young people enjoying sport, even if it is only for the physical exercise. The Apostle Paul did say that sport profited a little and it does. It is not the whole of the story of life, but it does profit a little to our lives.
But there are also downsides to sport. Sport can become the all and end all of life and that leads to disaster. The AIS have recognised this and ensure their athletes have access to respite. Sport that turns someone into an aggressive spirit is harmful, along with sport becoming a means to make financial windfalls. Any employment that isolates itself from all else, destroys the person, and so too with sport.
Balance becomes an important issue – moderation is a good thing. So we return to our initial question – what would the world be without sports?
You decide !