As I powered up my computer to write this article, several headlines appeared that are illustrative of the need for what you are about to read. These headlines spoke of a priest killed, ugly uniforms, fines being rescinded, the best college rivalries, and other similar topics. Yes, these headlines are largely weighted toward topics in sports and recreation. Technology has facilitated my selection for that – like millions of others, I like sports and recreation.
Recently I was asked, “What’s the big deal about sports – why are you so interested?” My excited response was filled with stories about how sports and recreation help people in life. Help them to cope. Help them to feel. Help them to discover themselves! Reflexively, I explained how many of the lessons people learn in life can be learned, and reinforced, in the context of sports and recreation.
So why is this important? Perhaps the answer is obvious – but then again, perhaps not. Still, consider this: As no other time in history before us, we need to be reminded of, and to actively practice – as in, daily – practice lessons from sports. In your own experience, you may recall learning the value of teamwork, determination, endurance, integrity, passion, self-control, and forgiveness.
Forgiveness? Is it not true that sports can be very unforgiving? Of course. Synonyms for forgiveness include “pardon,” “clemency,” and “mercy.” And, to show no mercy for an opponent can be seen as a necessary conjuring, to rise to the challenge of competition. Thus, in the context of competition one might find that pardon, mercy and forgiveness may fairly seem absent. Yet also – at the same time – these are still pervasive all throughout competition in sports and recreation.
Consider that, for individual sports and recreation activities, the mental toughness needed for success is based in forgiveness – the willingness to forgive oneself of failings or errors, missed shots, or boldface bad ones, and to move on past them. In team sports, for example, when our teammates miss shots or commit turnovers, are we not quick to forgive? And are there not rules in sports that allow for multiple fouls? Thus, these same rules dictate a second chance. And a third, or more. This smacks of forgiveness, yes?
Yet, human nature has often revealed that people are willing to “take advantage” of other people – even take advantage of their forgiveness. In sports, as in life, this is handled generally by integrated and/or graduated penalty. And what is the goal of this? Restoration. How? Because we have to be willing to forgive an offender again, and again, and again – so that said offender can learn to harness his/her offense to others – and be restored – to team. To community.
So what’s the big deal about sports? Well, sports provide for us solutions to larger societal dilemmas. Think about it – the news headlines are filled, weekly now, of shootings, and hatred, and terror – and stories of un-forgiveness. But if each of us, every day, were to be more forgiving of others, would we not start to bring change?
Despite the fact that we are an incredibly judgmental society, we all – deep down – really do love stories of forgiveness. They warm our hearts, and give us hope. Hope for relief. And, hope for good to prevail. So let us, each of us, weave our own stories of forgiveness of others – more and more often – and, every single day. As you probably realize, human nature also dictates – what you put out there, really does come back on you.
By Dr. Rodney J. Blackman
Dr. Blackman is the Chair of Recreation Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.