How sport teaches excellence and why it requires patience.

Sport builds character by offering, but not imposing, an education in patience, willingness to change and the process of achieving excellence.

These thoughts – and many others – were inspired by reading ‘Sport – a philosophical investigation’, by Paul Weiss. ISBN-10 0809305011.

Willingness to change is necessary in order to succeed in sport, as in life. The practice room makes you suffer by revealing what skills you truly have and those you have not yet. The self-unaware athlete cannot practise well because s/he has no insight into what needs to change. In its practice rooms, tracks, courts, and gyms, sport teaches humility by developing the ability to discern what needs to change and what needs to remain constant in yourself.

Circuitously, of course, or even paradoxically, if one doesn’t have the willingness to change, one will need to find it. This is the lesson that serious practice in sport lays down.

Sport asks for excellence and requires patience to achieve it. To wit, in boxing if you have courage and fitness, but no technique, you will be beaten just as badly as if you had technique and courage, but no fitness. Many qualities must be in the right place before excellence is apparent. Sport in this way demands dedication and farsightedness. If the boxer has all three of courage, fitness and technique, but alas no restraint – he too will lose, either by falling foul of the rules or being taken for a sucker. Sport offers pitfalls and punishes the ill-prepared, sometimes as badly as the prepared; it provides an education in patience and the multifaceted nature of excellence.

Dedication is the state of mind that will do whatever it takes to complete a goal. It supersedes commitment, which is the intention to achieve a particular goal in a certain way, but perhaps only in that way. This in turn sits above mere desire, which is non-directed intent. Desire itself starts with a wish, which has no intent supporting it at all. Moving from wish, to desire, to commitment, to dedication is the path of the sports person willing to change. If he or she arrives at this pinnacle, the last attainment is relaxation, which is the ability to select from whatever paths are open.

1 comment on “How sport teaches excellence and why it requires patience.Add yours →

  1. Great points. Willingness to change is a huge element of resilience – basically, the ability to thrive as things change. Hopefully if we pursue sport consciously, the practice can help prepare us to face life.

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