Pope Francis: Amid crisis, best fruits of sports emerge
Pope Francis, just after leading the Angelus Prayer on Palm Sunday, took notice of the United Nations' celebration of the International Day of Sports for Peace and Development on Monday, April 6.
While most sports events around the world have been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pope said the values engendered by sports are valuable in the global effort to push back against the pandemic.
He made the address on Sunday from the huge St Peter's Basilica that was bereft of a congregation due to the Italian lockdown.
The Pope pointed out at least 3 qualities that sports develop among young sportsmen and women – resistance, team spirit, fraternity.
Here’s a look at these sports values as the world grapples with the health crisis:
I have always believed that achieving anything worthwhile in any endeavor requires a marathon mentality. Though talent, hard work, and a bit of luck are naturally ingredients of a winning team or a winning run, nevertheless, the capacity for endurance, resilience, and resistance in the homestretch are important elements for successful athletes.
As the world battles the virus that has now infected over a million people, causing countless deaths in over a hundred countries in almost all continents of the globe, it is important that communities practice the patient strength required to put up our community defenses by following the appeal to self-isolate and observe quarantine restrictions.
Athletes are naturally active and full of energy, but this time, we should listen to the poet's injunction that "they also serve who only stand and wait."
No individual athlete or sports team wins matches or games and goes on to earn championships unless there is teamwork. Even tracksters or tennis players or Formula One drivers depend on others in their teams who work as coaches, trainers, technicians, and rely on them to achieve success in their field. Every athlete who succeeds works effectively with others.
Pope Francis, an Argentinian who remains a football enthusiast, supported his beloved San Lorenzo Football Club – a team that stood out for its team play and winning ways.
Most champion teams may have a superstar or two, but teams that achieve lasting success largely rely on their capacity for team work and ability to play with coherence, team chemistry, and good team relationships.
The Latin word "fraternitas" which Pope Francis used can normally be translated as fraternity or brotherhood, or the ability to work well and effectively with others.
No medical doctor or nurse in the frontline of fire can do their work properly without working in a fraternal manner with their hospital staff (medical technicians, laboratory analysts, cleaners and servers, administrators, and security people) just as political leaders cannot make critical decisions without relying on medical advisers such as epidemiologists, scientists, and statisticians.
"Giving the best of oneself," a phrase used by Pope Francis, captures the quality that can be considered as one of the fruits that athletes gain from sports.
Young people involved in sports learn to sacrifice, engage in honest hard work in order to develop their talents and skills. They develop a generous spirit if they are to succeed in their craft and become excellent members of teams. It is the same spirit we now need in our efforts against the pandemic.
If our communities are to beat back the advance of coronavirus, we would need the sacrifice and generosity not only of heroic frontliners putting their lives on the line but also the contribution of communities and citizens who provide support and encouragement and the resolute determination of people to follow physical distancing and other guidelines that medical experts provide.
In brief, this period of quarantine gives athletes and fans, coaches and trainers, teachers and mentors an opportunity to reassess the value and contributions of sports.
Sports is more than just the thrill of winning and losing and the accumulation of crowns and trophies.
It is perhaps time for a second wind, particularly, in collegiate sports: to begin to consider more important dimensions such as the building of character, the development of sportsmanship, and the formation of young people in the qualities underscored by Pope Francis.
He highlighted the importance of endurance, teamwork, and generosity – qualities likewise required if we are to tackle problems such as the pandemic that has engulfed our world, the current climate crisis, and social injustice expressed in the twin challenges of overcoming poverty and inequality. – Rappler.com
Ed Garcia is a consultant on the Formation of Scholar-Athletes at the Far Eastern University.