I’ve always said that sport is a metaphor for life, and that it can teach us many things. Applying these lessons means not regarding sport as a useless recreation, but seeing it as powerful for our re-creation—a vehicle for learning more about life in all its fullness. Several times this month people have mentioned this concept to me, and I wanted to explore one connection they made between sport and life.
In the poem ‘If’ Rudyard Kipling wrote, “Meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.” In every sporting competition someone wins and someone loses. But if an athlete is overly focused on either outcome this distracts from the now.
Elite athletes are told the secret to a great performance is focusing on the process, rather than the outcome. That is, focusing on their technique or staying relaxed or planning their next move. Imagine you are doing a fun run. The overall goal is to finish the race but your focus is on staying relaxed as you run: controlling your breathing, keeping your arms loose, etc.
It is about getting to the next kilometre mark, because if you put all this together you will cross the finish line. But, if you are scared of not finishing or desperate to win the race, it will just distract you. If you are thinking about the task immediately at hand—what you need to achieve in that moment—then the overall results will
Triumph and disaster in sport can both be distractions, and these imposters can teach us a lesson for life. If we are too focused on losing a relationship, or anxious to enter the real estate market, or on passing that exam, it can cripple our actions. But sport reminds us to break larger goals down and focus on the task at hand.
When people have spoken with me about their sporting challenges they made direct links with their current life. That is the great thing about sport—it is a metaphor and great teacher for so many areas.
In sport, as in life, it’s our determination to see things through and stay strong that should be our guiding light. At the end of our lives hopefully we can all say,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 7).
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and pastor, and was joint 2017 Tony Dunkerley Sport Writer Award winner.
This article first appeared on Christian Today (christiantoday.com.au).