A phrase synonymous with higher education is the term "lifelong learner."
That phrase is not only a characteristic educators desire to see in their students but also an expectation set for educators. I have learned that a terminal degree does not equate to the end of learning but rather an expectation of continuing to pursue knowledge. As a new year begins, I strive to live out that principle.
In seeking to understand more about the sociological aspect of sport, I recently viewed a presentation video by John Amaechi that has stuck with me. I know it has because it has challenged my perspective of the meaning of sport. His presentation provided me with a fresh perspective on what sport teaches.
In summary, I wanted to share three things I learned from Amaechi that I hope challenge you to relook at the meaning and purpose of sport.
THE TRUE STAKEHOLDERS IN SPORTS ARE ITS PARTICIPANTS, THE ATHLETES
In essence, sports are games that were created for participants to play.
Without the participants, there was no game to play. Somewhere between playing a game and participating in competitive sport, we lost focus on who is most important. This loss of perspective has impacted what we see in sport, a focus on everything else other than taking care of the participant. This aspect can be witnessed when we observe youth sport.
The normalcy of prioritizing wins over the investment of developing the player. Those involved in sport must remember who we are here for.
SPORT'S DUTY OF CARE IS IN DEVELOPING AN ATHLETE'S TRUE IDENTITY
Duty of care is the responsibility to protect the well-being of its constituents. Protecting the well-being of those involved in sport involves developing an athlete's identity beyond the court, field, pitch, etc. Duty of care is developing the athlete to see themselves as more than just what they play. In Amaechi's presentation, he brings out the point that if we continue to socialize athletes into thinking they are what they do, when they transition out of the sport, whenever that time comes, they have not only left behind what they do but also who they are. Athletes are more than just the team they represent and the game they play. Sport must encourage the development of the whole person, both on and off the court.
AWARENESS OF THE PROMISES OF SPORT
Read the mission statement of any sport organizations.
Pay attention to the words you read. Listen to coaches when they talk about their program. What is heard and the message that comes out are the promises sport makes in exchange for participation. Amaechi helped me realize that the promises that sport makes are very lofty and oftentimes unattained. He points out that being principled is more important than being loyal. If we say sport participation will develop a specific desired trait, we must ensure that all that we do and the decisions we make help develop what we say.
In the end, being a learner is achieved by more than just the consumption of information. The power of knowledge comes from the action associated with it. The process of learning is incomplete without the doing.
As the Book of James says, "be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving ourselves (James 1:22, NIV)." Acting on the information and knowledge that has been gained pushes me closer to the expectation set by the phrase "lifelong learner." May we all learn to strive to do what we can to make sport live up to its promises.
Written by Lester Sombito, Ph.D. '96
Associate Professor, School of Exercise & Sport Science I am blessed. I love what I do, learning and teaching students about the commodification of sport, and where I do it, UMHB. Aside from my faith and my family, UMHB has played a pivotal role in my life. I attended the university as a freshman in 1992 and graduated in 1996. I have served the university in a variety of roles, such as admissions counselor and residence hall director. God's journey for my life took me to serve as a head tennis coach at the collegiate level prior to my current faculty position. Aside from teaching, my time is invested in the following activities, being a husband, a father to two girls, and other enjoyable experiences such as tennis, running, reading, cooking, and woodworking.