No sport?! Sport is just one of the many areas of our world fallen casualty to Covid-19. Football season, Olympics, netball fixtures, even going to the local gym are all cancelled or postponed.
This might bring a range of emotions from elation of being able to sleep-in rather than getting up early for bootcamp, through to depression at not being able to play your favourite sport.
Consider an Olympic athlete training for four years and spending thousands of dollars travelling the world for events preparing for the Games, now all of that is “postponed.” An entire lead-up has evaporated, funding gone, sponsors lacking exposure and athletes unable to maintain any normality in training.
The same could be said for those that earn their living from football, basketball, cricket or other profile sports. Their pain and loss of job is equally as valid as someone who has lost their job from a café or retail worker because of Covid-19.
So how do we provide pastoral care for our athletes during this time? Having served as a sports chaplain and sport psychologist I have empathy for many who love sport and see it as an important part of their life. I offer some pastoral care tips to help and to generate discussion:
Lord of sport
A forced break helps refocus us on the big picture. Sport is a beautiful gift from God for our benefit. Sport serves us. It is not our master. When we see the big picture that Jesus is Lord of all we can see “no sport” as sadness, but not as a loss of a “god” whom gives us meaning. Jesus is still in control.
Serious athletes find a lot of their identity in their sport. This is built from the skills they have developed, their position in their sporting hierarchy and self-worth reflected from the sport.
However, sport is not what defines a person. People are created as image bearers, reflecting God’s creative rule. When there is no sport they should not see themselves as less, because their identity is secure, found in Christ.
Sport can be a positive addiction. Many serious athletes love the rush of competition. As a result many are also susceptible to negative addictions searching for that adrenaline rush. For example, recreational drugs, gambling etc.
These are the same potential tensions many athletes are tempted with now that they have no sport. Athletes need to show that same discipline they use in their sport to now provide self-care during these difficult times.
Audience of One
Athletes are often applauded for their sports-person-ship, reflecting the broader positive values of sport. The same principles apply for that athlete when not on the field.
All of our thoughts and actions are to be captive to Christ. The thoughts and battles athletes face in their forced break are equally as valid as the ones faced on the field. Athletes compete for “an audience of One.” That is, we should be bringing glory to God in all we do on and off the field.
In ten years’ time the Covid 19 events will be a significant but distant memory of our generation. However, what greater legacy than to use this event to deepen our faith? The forced break from sport offers us this insight into our attitudes and behaviours. It is an opportunity to grow in our faith through this trial.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html