Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What is it about sports?

What is it about sports?

Sisters is a sports-mad town in a sports-mad nation. While it didn’t generate as much ink as some issues have, there was a lot of chatter sparked by the school district letting two winning coaches go.

As one woman noted to me, you sure wouldn’t see that kind of passion about a math teacher.

Sports on all levels, from Little League to professional teams, rev a lot of engines. It’s big business, sure, but it’s more than that.

It can’t really be about the games themselves. Taken at their most basic, most sports are kinda silly. Throwing a ball through a hoop? Really? Banging a ball back and forth across a net? Who cares? Skating around chasing a rubber disk with a curved stick? Weird…

But such games transcend their raw contents and become all-consuming passions. Sports hit some deep chord within many people. Some of it’s tribal — my tribe against your tribe in ritual combat. Some of it’s personal.

Mr. SHS contestant Connor Morgan made a presentation at pageant about his passion for lacrosse and all the life lessons it had taught him. Primary among these was persistence. He apparently wasn’t naturally good at the sport when he took it up, but he stuck with it and it brings him great joy and satisfaction.

How can you gainsay the value of a passion like that?

My own experience of sports has been sort of ambiguous. While I’m a very physical person, I tend to get more out of the arts than I ever did out of sports. In fact, I guess I really experience the two in much the same way. I enjoy watching football and hockey, but high-level performance is more exciting to me than who wins or loses. The last time I actually cared about a team was when the Kings were vying for a Stanley Cup almost 20 years ago.

And yet…

I love to go out and battle on a tennis court and watching the Nadal/Djokovic Australian Open final filled me with awe and moved me in a way that is usually reserved for music I love.

Powerful stuff, sports.

You can argue that sports get too much emphasis, both in Sisters and in the broader culture. Maybe it’s true; I think so, sometimes. But something that means so much to so many… there’s something important there, something deeply meaningful. I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it — and you see it a lot in Sisters.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim,

    When in high school years ago now I was on the swim team.

    I wasn't the best swimmer but I wasn't the least talented, either.

    We had a great coach who taught us that competition was more than just winning. It was about learning to become a team member, a team player. It was about becoming more than you thought you were or could be. It was about hard work, more hard work, disappointment, elation, and just maybe a sports letter and jacket at the end of the season.

    Sports were a break from academics, a break from just "hanging around", a break from loneliness that comes as a natural part of growing up.

    Sports bring communities together in a hopefully positive forum, build pride, provide positive acknowledgement and encouragement.

    All aspects and qualities and values we need more so today than perhaps ever before.

  2. Wow. Anonymous #1 said it really well. Sports are fun to watch, but they can mean so much more for the kids involved. A well-run sports program gives kids a chance to work hard toward a goal, work as a team, build confidence, support others, deal with positive and negative emotions, and have fun in a healthy way.

    Problems begin when a sports program becomes more about adult egos than kids' well-being. We've all seem examples of adults who've lost perspective, whether it's parents who scream at refs (or their own kids)from the stands, or coaches who are so obsessed with winning they bully or ignore players in their programs.

    The current high school principal took a lot of flack for re-examining all of the school's sports programs and coaches, and for seeking parent feedback. But he should be commended for doing his job. After all, high school sports are a tax-supported school program, and they exist because they are supposed to be part of the players' education. Coaches may have very different styles, but every coach should understand their huge responsibility to set a great example and offer a positive experience to all their participants, and not just to their stars.

    Some programs, such as Charlie Kanzig's cross country program, do a great job of teaching the life lessons described by Mr. SHS candidate Connor Morgan and Anonymous #1, and for creating a healthy and positive team culture. In other programs, kids' needs can get overlooked in the quest for a winning season. A high school principal is responsible for seeing that all the programs under the Sisters High School umbrella are contributing to students' education in a positive way. Joe Hosang deserves credit for tryiing to step up to that responsibility.