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The proper attitude to sports

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
September 9, 2015

Boys will always be boys. Given any chance to play sports, their reaction is always lightning quick and wholehearted. In fact, I sometimes get the impression thatís where their heart really is. Classes are a poor second, or a third or fourthÖ

I just remembered the opening of an annual intramural Olympiad in a boysí school, and the environment suddenly changed mood. More movement, more laughter, more color. The boys seem to be on auto-pilot, guided by instincts otherwise hidden during normal schooldays.

Through it all, I somehow detected unmistakable traces and signs of growth and development. There was more self-confidence, better teamwork, an increased daring to show their talents and gifts, or as they say, to strut their stuff.

Itís true that while their education requires some controlled environment, they need to be unleashed from time to time, asking them to do things on their own.

Thatís where we can see whether degrees of maturity and sense of responsibility have been gained or not. Thatís where we can see who are the leaders and who the followers. Thatís where we can see their strengths and weaknesses.

I saw their cheer dance competition and their artwork exhibit Ė I could not be in all events Ė but I was already floored to see their creativity and artistry that truly widened my perspectives. Itís indeed a blessing that can come only from God.

Itís always moving to see them try their best to be more human and Christian, to become more mature and responsible in spite of the many demons they have to face. Human weakness and miseries, temptations from within and without hound them as they do everybody else. But their struggles have a peculiar quality.

Theyíre still awkward and prone to try flying without knowing exactly where they would land. Theyíre still into a grueling process of self-discovery, a very crucial stage where they need the most help that should not be too intrusive, which they resent.

Itís in sports where a common language is instantly spoken and understood even between staff and students, and practically by all. Barriers seen in classrooms and workshops seem to get dismantled in the gym. And everyone enjoys and looks forward to it.

Thatís why sports has to be given its proper place in school life. It may not be the most important element, but I would say itís an indispensable auxiliary component. For it can also be a terrific school of many virtues.

But it has to be infused also with the proper spirit. Otherwise, it can degenerate into a network of vices and inhuman attitudes Ė greed, lust, vanity, frivolity, etc.Ė that can become formidable since with sports this network gets extremely enjoyable and addictive.

Everyone needs to be reminded that sports has to serve our true dignity as persons and children of God. It cannot be an excuse for us to indulge in animality and savagery. Competition need not be an exercise of pride, envy and hatred.

It can be a healthy occasion to build a realistic attitude to life, for which one realizes the need for discipline and preparation, hardwork and focus. It can be a good learning moment for the interplay of the basic social principles of the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity.

Competition tells us we are not alone. We need to be with others. It tells us we have to work for a goal, each one contributing whatever he can and always doing it in an effective tandem with others.

Competition is a driver of development at least in the personal and social aspects of oneís life. It pushes one to go to the limits of his capabilities not only in the technical aspects but especially in the more human ones Ė magnanimity, gracefulness, patience, optimism, etc.

Thatís why it is important to make everyone understand the true nature and purpose of competition. If one knows what competition really is and is for, he will always come out a victor whether he wins or loses in a game or business.

Defeat, according to General George Patton, is not due to losses but to the destruction of the soul. Itís when one surrenders to discouragement, pessimism, despair.

Thatís why it is important that everyone learns to compete properly, correcting him whenever the spoilers of the true status of competition come. How essential is it, therefore, that the young ones be immediately reminded and encouraged whenever they show signs of misunderstanding it!

Of course, the very fundamental principle of sports and competition is oneís love for God. Outside of that, forget it.