I Miss Basketball: Reflecting on the relationship between Sport and Faith during restrictions
”The Church is interested in sport because the person is at her heart, the whole person, and she recognizes that sports activity affects the formation, relations and spirituality of a person”
I miss basketball!
It’s been difficult not being able to play and train over the last few months.
I miss playing with my team, training and working towards a common goal. I miss witnessing the goodness that people are capable of through sport – generosity, perseverance, courage. I miss the feeling of dribbling past opponents and passing for a shot at the ring. I miss the moment the whistle blows to begin the game. It’s hard to explain.
But let me try.
It’s like, your body, heart and mind click into gear, channelling every lesson and every movement played in the past.
It’s like the moment the red light switches to green, and you know it’s time to focus your attention and energy to driving.
It’s like the moment when your lunch is called out at Big Chief after missing breakfast and you know it’s time to eat.
It’s like standing in the shower and the warm water for some reason switches to cold or when you’ve waited on top of the peak of a rollercoaster and the drop happens.
The adrenaline compels me, and I’m taken into this place where I get to take risks, push myself beyond limits, practice mindfulness and fair play. I’m invited to cooperate and choose to play in a team, thinking about a common goal and not just my own performance.
I started playing basketball when I was 11-years-old at Kevin Betts Stadium in Mount Druitt. Basketball helped me find a sense of belonging, especially through high school, and helped me to connect with my family. But I think more importantly, basketball has helped me discover myself.
Sport has always been a part of my life. My parents encouraged my brother and I to play with our neighbours. That’s what we did. Cricket on the driveway, football in the yard, riding bikes to local parks. It was just part of my childhood.
However, I didn’t start to see the significance of the relationship between sports and faith until I was 22. I started a basketball team with friends I served in youth ministry with – the Embers. After a year in 2012, living in Miami and feeling quite isolated, basketball helped me find community again.
The more I delved into the beauty of our faith and as I began to choose to consciously strive for holiness, my eyes were opened to the significance of sport in the development of the human person, and in my own development. Sport became an avenue for me to practice virtues and to find God in the game and in others. I became very aware that playing sport and engaging in physical activity was not only helping my holistic wellbeing, but it was educating me, teaching me lessons of the faith. In the same way I am called to practice prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice and charity in my daily life, I am also called to do so on the court.
Overtime, I’ve become passionate about embracing sport as an opportunity for encounter and evangelisation. Embers has grown from one team to three and the community continues to share the common pillars of fellowship, Christian love and excellence – which we recognise influences other parts of our lives.
In 2018, the Vatican released Giving the best of yourself: a Document on the Christian perspective on sport and the human person from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. This document has helped me articulate the opportunities that sport presents to us and the Church today, particularly when engaging with young people.
When we look at our Australian culture, sport is very much embedded into our nation’s history. We love sport. We, as the Church in Australia, have a significant gift and opportunity here. Sport can be an entry point to creating spaces where young people can encounter God’s love and to grow in virtue.
Sport can be a place where young people find belonging and are challenged to discover their strengths and weaknesses. Sport can be a way for young people to see who they are and what they are truly capable of.
The document highlights how sport and faith relate. This includes understanding freedom, rules and cooperation, combating individualism through teamwork, choosing to sacrifice to experience communal joy, harmony and courage, and an invitation to practice respect and solidarity.
We see here that sport and faith are not so separate as we might think. The document explains, sport reveals our human quest for ultimate meaning. When humans experience beauty, we are directed to someone greater. Through sport, we can experience the beauty of our humanity which calls us to something more!
““The bond between the Church and the world of sports is a beautiful reality that has strengthened over time, for the Ecclesial Community sees in sports a powerful instrument for the integral growth of the human person. Engaging in sports, in fact, rouses us to go beyond ourselves and our own self interests in a healthy way; it trains the spirit in sacrifice and, if it is organized well, it fosters loyalty in interpersonal relations, friendship, and respect for rules.””
As restrictions ease over the next few weeks, while we may be missing sport or fitness activities, perhaps we can find some time to reflect on what ways God has been revealed through sports. Hopefully, by reflecting on this, we might find a deeper appreciation for sport in our life or discover new ways of evangelising today.
Qwayne is the Local Engagement Leader, Catholic Youth Parramatta. Catholic Youth Parramatta offers sessions on faith topics relevant to young people including sports and faith. Interested in running a session for your team, school or parish? Contact the team via email@example.com.