The place of sports in our lives and society is amiss. It seems that many of us have developed an unhealthy relationship with these physical games. Either we're committing every unit of our being to playing our favourite game, or else we're giving up playing and are passionately following along from our couches. To find the balance of sport in our lives is a delicate feat that requires careful consideration both on a personal and a community level.
The True Sport Report, published by Elizabeth Mulholland in conjunction with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, analyzes the role of sports in Canadian communities. Promoting healthy aging, enhancing mental health, preventing chronic disease, enhancing academic achievement, teaching positive values, reducing health care costs and strengthening community are some of the positive outcomes Mulholland found from participation in sport.
I grew up playing sports - lacrosse, hockey, basketball, football, cross-country, rock climbing, mountain biking and swimming.
Whether it was organized or pickup, I loved playing sports and still do. There is no doubt that without playing sports, I would be a different person.
Mulholland also recognizes that "[Canadians] are worried about too much aggression, cheating and unfair behaviour. They are worried about win-at-any-cost attitudes and that too many young people are leaving sport for the wrong reasons ... and they are worried about the influence of commercial sport values on the values of community sport."
Something not brought up in Mulholland's study and is rarely discussed is becoming lost in sport. It's a sad and realistic undertaking when athletes blindly pursue their chosen sports with such a deep commitment that they forget about the rest of their lives.
This past summer, I observed and supported a co-worker undergoing this process. In the spring, Jillian was on track to play on Canada's national rugby team when during training she damaged her knee. In June, she went to a doctor and was given an uncertain diagnosis about her rare injury. Plagued by pain, she spent more time under medical investigation.
Eventually, she was informed that she would never regain the function she once had and that other people with the same injury deal with it for the course of their lives.
I empathized with Jillian as she adapted to her new circumstances. At first she fought it and denied the reality of her situation: She was a rugby player, she had defined herself as this throughout most of her life. Then, after several months of distress and struggle, she accepted her reality.
She was quite depressed. As the summer ended, Jillian began rediscovering herself and seeking a new purpose.
No single game is worth jeopardizing our future well-being through physical or emotional injury. Nor is a game worth detriment to relationships or other aspects of our livelihood.
As mentioned above, the benefits of playing sports are undeniable. Not for an instant am I suggesting that we cease or curb participation. However, we ought to reconsider how we involve ourselves in sport as an athlete, a coach, a parent or guardian and even as an audience, as we have gone astray.
"There is something seriously afflicted in a nation when it can be argued, with some pitiful justification, that the average parent would choose having a child play a single game in the NHL than become a neurosurgeon for life," wrote Roy MacGre-gor in a Globe and Mail article. MacGregor goes on to explain how the NHL lockout is beneficial to Canadians - that we will be freed from our obsession. It seems that even as fans, many of us have become lost in our spectation.
We've forgotten that this pursuit is a game. It's for our amusement or enjoyment. For the vast majority of us, sports are a step along the way, not the end objective. We ought to consider our blind devotion as armchair athletes or up-and-coming superstars.
Like most things in life, we need to understand the purpose of and find balance for sport.
Sascha Drewry of Fern-wood is an ex-Canadian sailing champion, and represented Canada abroad in junior field lacrosse.
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