Sports have long been thought of as a vehicle that permits us to rise above differences. And they do.
Many have even gone as far as advocating that sports can cure all that ails relating to intolerance, violence and crisis in our world. I’m not sure I can go that far, but I do feel that we can use our experiences on the courts and fields to teach values that can lead to a better (not perfect) world.
So let’s bring this theme down to our microcosm of the world – to our daughters who play sports.
Besides the physical and emotional benefits associated with sports play, there are so many social benefits as well. Our focus here of course is on learning respect and tolerance. (This is as good a time as any to acknowledge that there are many other arenas outside of sports that foster the value of acceptance and even respect for human and societal differences.)
I can speak from both personal experience as well as many years of observation.
From my own perspective, as a young multisport athlete, I developed a group of friends that shared my passion for sports. From the beginning, I was exposed and grew close to African Americans and Asians, girls from a variety of religions, the tall and short, the overweight and thin. Diversity was thus a natural in my world to the extent that I even enjoyed invitations to celebrate religious holidays outside of my own. I honestly never questioned others beliefs or way of life. These girls were good friends, ideal teammates, and fun to be around.
When I entered my college years, I was honestly surprised to hear blatant discriminatory comments expressed because of differences. Interestingly, during an intramural volleyball game, I remember noticing that one of the girls that lived on my floor actually hi-fived another she had been teasing after a great play. I was encouraged by the sudden show of respect – their differences seemed to fade into the background at that moment on the court. After that day, the two of them shared a better relationship as they constantly joked with each other about how they took credit for winning the match with that one play.
Since the establishment of summer sports day camps, fields and courts have hosted hundreds of young kids. In touting the concept of team – teamwork, team spirit, and team effort – these kids grow together. Fueled by great memories, it is heartwarming to witness the formation of lasting bonds that transcend their differences.
Which leads me back out to the bigger picture. Take a look at the article at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/sl_price/09/07/venus.race/index.html?xid=cnnbin&hpt=Sbin
Venus Williams offers this impressive sense of respect when she comes to the support of Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer. These kinds of stories create hope.
I’ll bet when you started your kids in sports you never thought about contributing toward world peace! A nice thought indeed and worth dreaming about. But the daily lessons are not bad either.
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