High school sports provide more than exercise, fosters harmony

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2011 Spartans storm the field before the Homecoming game. Riley Wheaton describes it: “For a moment there was quiet as the Spartan raised the flag high over his head. He yelled “CHARGE!” Like water too long bottled up we escaped and raced down the hill and toward the game. For all the world like one entity, we charged. It’s a moment of complete relinquishing of self. A moment of perfect harmony.”

the observatory“Clap your hands and stomp your feet, let’s all do the Spartan beat!”

Thump thump thumpthumpthum thump thump thumpthumpthump

It was the final day of homecoming week at SPA and the Historic Briggs Gymnasium was packed.  Pep fest had brought students from every grade and walk of life into one crowd, and it had transformed them all into a roaring mob.  The crowd was a chaos of fractured blue and gold (only appropriate for “Blue and Gold day”).  It was my first year of high school and my first pep fest ever.  I stood among the massive crowd straining to hear my own words amongst the collective roar and thump until, at last, I gave up and screamed just screamed with the crowd.

Pullquote Photo

That Friday in the gym was almost magical or ethereal for me, but there are people who feel that way every Friday.”

— Riley Wheaton, columnist

I’m not (by any stretch of the imagination) a sports kid, but that experience (centered as it was around the forthcoming football game) stuck with me: being part of the crowd moving in waves was amazing.  In the popular Netflix drama House of Cards, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey)  gives a speech to a group of students about harmony — “it’s not about what’s lasting or permanent, it’s about individual voices coming together for a moment … and that moment lasts the length of a breath…”  Underwood’s harmony was how the crowd felt to me on that Friday afternoon.  I felt a connection between people striving and hoping as one mind.  Or perhaps in this case, one heart.  People sometimes ding sports for being too dangerous, being divisive, or just being without benefit, but when I’m asked whether high school sports are worth it or not, I absolutely have to say yes.

Sports bring an atmosphere like no other activity, and they enrich the lives of their players and their audiences.  That Friday in the gym was almost magical or ethereal for me, but there are people who feel that way every Friday.  A sports team is unlike, for example, a group of artists in the team’s unity of purpose.  A team is band of brothers (or sisters) setting out to beat the other guys and bring home some hardware for the school trophy cabinet.  A team strives for its school and knows that if they win the game or meet that they’ll be returning as  conquering heroes, the darlings of the masses.  It creates the same kind of adrenaline rush as going off to war.  Like wars, sports bring people together: Solidarity in victory, and solidarity in defeat.  That is the spirit of sports in a community.

Sports can also teach its participants lessons that can last long after they’ve graduated.  Sports can teach lessons about leadership, about perseverance, and about honor. When it comes to perseverance, there are few better places to learn.  It takes perpetual effort and endless finesse to play well.  You can’t get that without commitment.  Finally, sports teach sportsmanship.  Sportsmanship is a really important one in sports and it’s one that sometimes gets tossed by the wayside in professional organizations.  But when a team loses, they shake the hands of the other team.  They say to their erstwhile opponents “good job.”

I’m not (by any stretch of the imagination) a sports kid, but that experience (centered as it was around the forthcoming football game) stuck with me.”

— Riley Wheaton, columnist

The United States has gotten a bad rap lately of being the most obese country in the world (despite the fact that we’re number 18).  While this is a common conception (or misconception), there is a possible treatment, or even cure.  Sports keep the body limber as they train the mind.  Physical discipline is lacking in much our world today, and starting to develop those ideas at an early age is vitally important.  Physical fitness is beneficial for other reasons than that it helps us handle our country’s image problem.  Exercising releases endorphins which can combat depression as well as improving brain activity.  Exercising the body exercises the brain.  It also helps the body get more sleep which is also good for the mind!  In short, there are tremendous and widely various upsides to exercising regularly through sport.

Every year since I joined the SPA community I’ve gone to the pep fest and the football game afterward.  This year I’m an upperclassman and I saw the freshmen experiencing this for their first time ever.  It was magical all over again.  After pep fest every year all of us head up to a big hill overlooking the football field and then charge down behind our mascot (a Spartan) as we crest like a wave and sweep across the field.  For a moment there was quiet as the Spartan raised the flag high over his head.  He yelled “CHARGE!”  Like water too long bottled up we escaped and raced down the hill and toward the game.  For all the world like one entity, we charged.  It’s a moment of complete relinquishing of self.  A moment of perfect harmony.