Do we have time for sports?

Megan Sweas| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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The NCAA tournament is over, the Cubs are above .500 after five games, and it's time to talk faith and sports.

Today I noticed a news story from Catholic News Service about Faith Bowl IV is airing on EWTN, CatholicTV, and other stations, featuring four stars talking about "the importance of the Catholic faith in the context of children's sports." While I'm sure I'd agree with all the good things they say about sports, here's what I'd like to hear them discuss:  

I love sports, both playing and watching them, but last year I was sidelined by an injury. It was probably my first summer off from some sort of competition since 5th grade (probably Kindergarten if you count park district leagues).

A fellow editor told an interesting story in meeting today. Loyola University of Chicago is soon to tear down its famed Alumni Hall, where the 1963 NCAA champion basketball team played. Her sister attended Loyola shortly after the school won the championship, and she loved to go to games.

Remembering those days fondly, her sister said that she would get grief from her hippy friends. "Why would you want to watch basketball?" they'd ask her. They seemed to be too busy trying to save the world. And they probably thought Marx got it wrong about the “opiate of the Masses:” It’s not religion, but sports.

Clearly, they were missing out on a lot of fun and lessons learned from sports. But as I tried to figure out what to do with my newly found free time last summer, I began questioning my lifelong dedication to working out, practicing, going to tournaments.

What could I--not to mention the time and money my parents spent on teams and lessons (thanks, Mom and Dad)--have done with all those summers if I hadn’t been so dedicated to playing at the most competitive level I could? Could I have learned teamwork, dedication, discipline, and other lifelong skills other ways?

Despite my best efforts, volunteering in Honduras before my senior year of high school affected my senior season of tennis. Honduras was a life-changing experience, but the competitive side in me has a tinge of regret: How good could I have been my senior year? As a captain of team, I once had to tell a friend that her travels to Africa had cost her playing time, as other players had improved significantly while she was gone.

Julie Hanlon Rubio critiqued the sports focus of parishes in our interview with her about raising a family that is more engaged with the world.

Everyone has to make a choice, and sports can be a great developmental experience for kids. But how do we achieve balance in a world that encourages us all to dream of going pro?