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Student-Athlete Reflects on the Link between Athletics and the Transcendental

In my last post, I discussed the Vatican document, "Giving the Best of Yourself" and introduced the value of a philosophical approach to the execution of youth-sports. Since then, I have had the privilege of becoming better acquainted with a student-athlete on the track team. After a routine practice, I asked this young man to watch and write a summary of the movie "Chariots of Fire." 

A commonplace challenge in the coach-and-athlete relationship is that of helping each other get better: both on and off the track. My hope is that after reading this piece, that you, my reader, may learn from this young man as much as I have.

The follow note was written by Andrew Quade:

What does it mean to run? What is the essential cornerstone of life that empowers each individual to realize his or her ultimate purpose in the hopes of achieving the idea of a well-lived life? What is it that makes humanity so rooted in itself and compulsive in its desire to obtain difficult feats while facing an array of variables that in themselves are enigmas of complexity?

The movie entitled Chariots of Fireexhibits the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. The movie itself is a window that allows the audience to view and experience the aspects of life that define the underlying truths behind the motivations, aspirations, and purposes of the athlete that vehemently ties in the ideological components of faith and religion to illustrate a more meaningful perspective with which to approach life. Personally, after watching this movie, I have come to question the core values and beliefs I previously held when approaching the concept of what it means to be an athlete, as well as what it means to run.

Watching the movie allowed me to further my own personal understanding of the manner in which I have come to approach running with and deepened my narrative in regard to the overall purpose of “sport” itself. An athlete must possess a strength not only in the physical world—through arduous training and strict schedules—but also within the realm of the mind, one in which an athlete’s purpose is shaped by his or her reliance on God and faith in Him.

Eric Liddell, the devout Scottish Christian, knew what he was running for and remained steadfast in his beliefs throughout the majority of the movie because he was running for the component of life with which he held in significance above all else: he was running for God. He knew his purpose, and he approached his races with a firm, strong mind that did not wilt at the glimpse of competition or scurry into fear when met with the possibility of failure. He was a true athlete, possessing fortitude in his convictions and faith within his heart.

Harold Abrahams, however, was a lost man. He did not know truly why he was running and aimed at winning for the sole purpose of overcoming a prejudice placed upon him due to his Jewish ancestry. He portrayed an example of what athletes ought not follow: an individual clouded by desires and wishes that only contribute to blocking the truth and evident purpose of what running should be-a sport built upon love, faith, and trust in the activity and for God.

This movie has greatly impacted me and altered my mindset in ways I never thought possible. The track no longer appears to gloom over my mind, but rather fills me with hope. It serves as an opportunity for me to exhibit my faith in God and allows me to offer up each of my races for Him.

Running is not a sport that should be fueled by ideas and concepts that distort the truth and almost sacred like quality behind it. It should be filled with goals and personal achievements that contain the core values encompassing the love to run. Running a race is not done merely to win, but rather because the athlete loves what he or she is doing and possesses such a passion for it that defeat could not possibly serve as a catalyst for disappointment. I now know what it means to call myself an athlete, and I now know why I run.

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