“What is the definition of a sport?”
I was struck by this question and gave my immediate answer along the lines of “a game where there is an adjudicator/referee/umpire involved, defined court/playing field and a common goal among everyone involved usually with the end goal to score”.
“So does that mean Bottle flipping is a sport?” came the quick reply with upturned hands and the shrug of teenage shoulders.
It gave interesting food for thought, the original conversation embroiled in the debate whether ‘horse riding’ & ‘dance’ are considered ‘real sports’ (to squash any queries my answer is yes to both of these).
But due to the ‘definition’ of sport I gave, it gave rise for me to question how people can dedicate so much time and effort to the attainment of a goal….. that could be classified as simply as ‘Bottle flipping’.
Commitment to what?
Playing sport myself (AFL), I dedicate a significant portion of my time to ensuring that I am in a state to play, and contribute to the success of my sports team. But this original question raised the point ‘but to what effect?’
Playing on the weekend I was witness to and a part of what I think it means to be part of a sports team. Whilst we came off the field defeated, we felt victorious amongst ourselves as this was the second time we had played together, and throughout the game left everything out on the field.
During the game we started to execute what we had practiced during so many training sessions and learnt a lot about each other in the process. Throughout the game (of any sport) of AFL there are so many elements that need to come together for cohesive team play.
Firstly, there are positions. Everyone in a set role on the field, playing a set strategy within the team. Whilst AFL may look absurd to first time spectators with rules allowing player to play; 360 degrees, kick, run, jump, handball, and tackle, a good coach will assign different roles to each playing position, each person suited to their strengths.
Before you run out on the field, you must know your role, the role you have been practicing during trainings, the role you are suited for, the role which will help you strengthen the team, and knowledge of how that role fits within the team.
What I love about AFL football is that there is a position for everyone. From over 200cm tall Ruck players to shorter inside-midfielders, to wing positions who can run all day. The nature of the game and the different positions allow for a vast array of body shapes, sizes, strengths and abilities to help contribute to the team.
Pursuit of a common goal
But what draws us altogether? The pursuit of a common goal. Obviously in team sports it is to score more goals than the opponents, but I see a similarity between the cohesion of an array of different people coming together for a common goal on the sports field and the body of believers described in the Bible.
Jesus’ 12 disciples are an example of an array of different people coming together for a common goal (Luke 6: 12-16). From tax collectors, to a zealot, to fishermen, to students, Jesus’ disciples were a ‘mixed team’ who were brought together by the ‘Master Coach’.
Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion knelt down and prayed for his disciples, for Unity (John 17). Earlier in John Jesus describes where this unity should be aimed:
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35).
1 Corinthians echoes these words to attain Love as the highest Goal:
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. Let love be your highest goal!” (1 Corinthians 13:13 &14:1).
The ‘Team of Faith’
In the Christian faith I look around to see a myriad of brothers and sisters in the body of Christ with different; heritage, career, age, gender, marital status, hobbies, interests, and histories. All rejoice together because the ‘Master Coach’ has called us all to one common purpose and goal.
To look out onto the ‘playing field’ of Faith I think it might look absurd to first time spectators to see such differing groups of people head towards a common goal: genuine love. Whilst we are all human and certainly step on each other’s toes at times, when you come to know the ‘Master Coach’ and receive his message – receive his love, the power of this transformation is astounding.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.