Tuesday 14 February 2012

Why I fell in love with Sport

This Valentine's Day, I would like to express my undying love... for sport!

For me, it was a match made in heaven. But the reason I love sport so much, is that it has the ability to be special for anyone. What sport does isn't quantifiable, but it can be quite profound. One of the sad issues that sport has faced in recent uncertain financial times, is that because you can't measure its impact, it is difficult to lobby for money to be spent on it, especially at the grass roots of sport.

I suppose the sceptics amongst you would say it's a world or corruption, of cheats and a male dominated arena of insane pay. You'd be right, FIFA isn't a glowing example of leadership, cycling, athletics and many other sports have uncovered athletes who cheat to get to the top and footballers get paid even more than bankers these days.

But sport itself, is in its purest form simple, empowering and brilliant.

It only takes a young girl or boy to watch a football match, a cycling race, an athletics championship or a swimming competition on television or in another way, to be inspired to try sport. The result of that inspiration could be them picking up a football, getting their bike out of the garage, buying new trainers or membership to their local swimming pool.
Over time that child could develop, from the simple enjoyment of just kicking a football against a wall, to setting themselves a challenge to be able to move the ball in a certain way, even to becoming part of a team and be part of a group who join together to achieve the same goal.

Despite the structures, politics and money that complicates the world of sport, there is a very simple pleasure in trying to master and new skill and mastering it, to aim to ride a distance and achieving it, to aim to complete a run in a certain time and hitting it.
It is these small, simple pleasures than even Lionel Messi, Sir Chris Hoy, Usain Bolt or Rebecca Adlington will have had as children.

But you don't need to be an elite athlete to enjoy sport. For me I take part in 2 sports which are very different but have given me enormous pleasure in their own ways.

As a hockey player, I don't just have the simple satisfaction of making a diving save, or the ball hitting my pads rather than it going in our goal, the club I play for is like a second family and an amazing community that I feel a very strong sense of belonging to.

As a cyclist, when I feel stressed, I can use my bicycle as meditation and feel free on it - it becomes part of me. When I ride everything feels more open, more accessible and gives me back a strong sense of independence. When I ride on a velodrome I feel an adrenaline rush like no other, coming off the steep banking and flying into a straight at an amazing speed, it's incredible.
With the Race Across America it gives me a feeling that I can make a tiny dent, to play my part in helping get rid of the stigma of Epilepsy and raise funds for the condition the only way I know how.

It doesn't matter what the sport is, where it is, or how someone does it, anyone has the opportunity to take part in it, find peers that they can relate to, feel healthier, become part of a kind of family or give themselves solitude amongst a hectic life.

So that's why I fell in love with sport and why anyone else can too.
The sporting community is for everyone, it doesn't matter what country you come from, what religion you believe in, if you're a girl or boy, if you have a disability or none at all.

I believe if you can get someone to a sport's field of play, whatever it is, amongst their peers, it doesn't matter who you are, you're involved and can do anything you put your mind to there.

What a special place that is.

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