school of sport:with TIM MIDDLETON
STANDING in the baking heat for hours on end, with no protection from the blazing sun, dust being whisked up into our face, the glare bouncing off the brown earth and piercing our eyes, while we are only occasionally called into action; standing in the freezing cold with a biting, driving wind blowing sleet and hail in our face and penetrating through the three layers of clothes that are meant to provide some comfort and warmth, while our legs are drained of energy through layers of mud and water; staring defeat in the face, yet again, with our confidence shattered, with team-mates shouting, arguing, complaining, moaning, criticising, and opponents taunting, mocking, grinding our face and our dignity into the dust and dirt; through each and every of those scenarios, it is fair to assume that we may well be tempted to pause and consider this question: Is sport worth it?
Is sport worth the pain? Is it worth the breaks, stitches, strains, scars, sores and stiffness? Is it worth the aching back, heavy legs, splitting sides, throbbing head, stinging hands, numbing ears, blistered feet, bruised shins and twinging neck? Is it worth the exhaustion, fatigue and discomfort? Is sport worth all of that?
Is sport worth the effort? Is it worth all the draining effort needed to train and train and train, to run and run and run, to go the extra mile in extra time? Is it worth the energy that has to be dragged up from the depths of our whole being, simply to carry on? Is it worth the shortness of breath that comes from pushing our body to the limits? Is it worth the weariness of mind that comes from repetitive exercises and regular discipline?
Is sport worth the disappointment? We all lose at some stage and losing hurts; the natural disappointment that comes from losing hurts our pride, our ego, our reputation, our confidence, our dreams, our relationships, our todays and tomorrows. Is sport worth that?
Is sport worth the time? Added up, the preparation (both physical and mental, both emotional and psychological), the participation and the perusal all take up a huge amount of time. The time outside of the actual playing of sport taken up by thinking and learning about the tactics, the targets, the tensions; by training and trying the drills, skills and thrills — is it all worth it?
Is sport worth the money involved in equipping, in travelling, in playing and training, in learning and testing? Is sport worth the training, the treatment and the trauma? Is sport worth the highs and lows, the hopes and fears, the dreams and dramas? Is sport worth the intensity, the scrutiny and the travesty, the criticism and the condemnation? Is it worth it? Why on earth bother with sport?
If we are to answer the questions above, we have to consider what the “it” is; what is sport worth? What balances the equation with all that has gone before? Is it the glory that will come to those that do succeed? Is it the attention and adulation, the honour and kudos, the fame and the name? Is it the praise and the price, the pleasure and the platform? Yes, it is all these and more. It is the sense of fulfilment and sense of achievement, the satisfaction and the significance, the enjoyment experienced and the lessons learned; they all add up to balance the blood, sweat and tears.
Is sport worth all that? Really? Yes, sport is worth it! What we get out of it far outweighs what has been put into it. In fact, the more sport that we do, the more the value and worth increases. The more sport we do, the more the experiences assist us in all other areas of life. Timothy Keller, an American pastor, took the image that we have considered for sport into marriage, in saying, “Marriage is glorious, but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears; humbling defeats and exhausting victories.” It is, we can say, worth it! Bear Bryant, a successful American football player and coach, echoed that sentiment in saying: “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success.” It is worth it!
Our value is not dependent on sport, but sport is worth its weight in gold. And sport is worth it for the simple reason espoused by a well-known cosmetics company which has for years had the highly successful advertising slogan: “Because you’re worth it!” Sport is worth it because we are worth it.
l Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org