Sporting headlines of late haven’t really highlighted the way in which sport can bring people together. Whether it is all-in brawls at basketball matches or rifts between rugby players, it’s enough to make you wonder what happened to the idea of sport being something we do for fun.
But, even if it doesn’t make the news, there are countless examples of sport helping people enjoy life as we connect with everyone else who is involved. It’s a vital part of Australian life. It always has been and its value can’t be measured in money.
When I first started playing cricket, I was awful, and I can’t say that I’ve improved all that much. If my measurement of success was wickets, runs, or even playing in winning teams, it’s been a waste of time. It’s the same with most of the other sports I’ve played throughout the years, but that’s not why I participate.
We live in a society that is becoming increasingly disconnected, where it is easy to turn inwards and go through life without being actively involved in our community. Many of us will spend most of our time with the same few people. Linked with this is also an increasing number of people suffering from a sense of loneliness.
But, you know, it can be surprisingly hard to meet new people. It’s especially tough when you don’t have an existing social network to lean on, or you are starting from scratch in a new location. And on top of that, just where are the places you can spend meaningful time with people you don’t already know? Work is one of them but this isn’t a possibility for everyone.
For me, sport has provided a place where I regularly spend time with a bunch of people from all walks of life. If it wasn’t for our common interest in sport I would never have had any reason to interact with them. With some of my teammates, sport is the extent of our interaction, but there are plenty of others with whom I have discovered other things in common and I now call them friends.
It’s this ability of sport to build community and create relationships that should be celebrated. It’s something that perhaps isn’t as valued as it once was, but it’s needed now more than ever. There’s another once central part of Australian life, whose relevance and importance is sometimes questioned, in which I have found that same sense of community and belonging as sport, as well as much more—the church.
I believe that our world, which is becoming lonelier, needs more of the things that build community.
From my experiences I know where I can find them. What about you?