Throughout the ages, sports has meant different things. It is usually considered as a celebration of life and health, of the physical and the spiritual. It also serves as a test of the highest, the strongest and the fastest among humans. It is an art that we strive to perfect, a science we continue to study and develop.
For simple folk, it provides fun and leisure. But what is really the ultimate goal of sports for humanity? Like any other good thing, the way we view and engage in sports can go the opposite way of its noble intentions. Look at how the Coliseum games turned into something in which human lives were blood-thirstily used for sports, or the Sochi doping scandal which cast a shadow on the integrity of sports. In today’s world, what does sports mean to us? Entertainment? Business? Does it bring us together in shared pride or tear us apart through clashing loyalties and fanaticism? In a friendly and fair competition, players are supposed to bring out the best in one another.
But often, the game is played to the death, and sportsmanship fades where enmity and the use of foul means to win come in. What if we try to understand and appreciate sports on a deeper level to see what we can truly learn from it? Sports can teach us harmony and balance, how to achieve goals by using all resources available, how to move our bodies in rhythm and through space, and how to work as a team.
They teach us the art of losing gracefully, and how to accept defeat, not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone toward success. What if we use sports to help humankind come together and love one another and create transformative change?
Through sports pedagogy, we can introduce values which people from different nations, cultures and religious backgrounds or convictions can share, as this is simply a universal way of teaching brotherhood and peace. The world of sports, and ultimately of peoples, can imbibe the valuable lesson of Ubuntu (in Xhosa culture “I am because we are”) from Africa, which teaches that our humanity is fulfilled in community, in belonging.
An anthropologist who was studying a tribe in Africa once proposed a game for some village children to play. He placed a basket full of sweets under a tree and told the kids to make a run for it at his signal. The first one to arrive there would win all the candies.
When he said “Go!” the children held each other’s hand and ran towards the tree together. While they were happily sharing the sweets with each other, the surprised anthropologist asked them why they had all run over together when any one of them could have won the entire basket of sweets for themselves. A girl replied, “How can one of us be happy when all the others are sad?”
In the games we play, great or small, and in real life as well, it might be good to ask ourselves the same question.