Sports And Religion

Sports And Religion

Why are so many athletes religious?

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I recently just made it on to the USC Track and Field team, and it is easily the biggest accomplishment I have ever made in my entire life. I worked so hard to physically and mentally prepare to try out for the team, let alone actually make it. I thank God for allowing me to have the chance to be a part of this team, as well as giving me that physical and mental strength required to do so, and I express this whenever someone congratulates me for making the team or even asks if I made it or not. However, I noticed that when I did this, some of the responses were a bit dismissive when I brought religion into the picture. When I said I thank God for it, I would be met with responses like "Yea well even aside from God..." or another response that drew the conversation away from my faith, away from the concept of a god.

In fact, I've noticed that many athletes are religious in some form-- more so collectively than other student bodies aside from religious groups themselves. I thought about why this may be, aside from the obvious answer such as growing up religious at home, because that does not answer the question; many people grew up in a religious household and are not religious themselves. So, I began to think personally. Why do I thank God for my athletic performance? There's a certain level of uncertainty within every sport. All athletes train their hardest to minimize this level of uncertainty, in order to maximize their chances of success. However, you can only train so hard. To me, no matter how hard you train, there's always some type of level of uncertainty to every level of performance: the chances of you getting injured, the chances of you winning your game or race, the chances of the opponent's performance, etc. This is where I think God intervenes, and perhaps other athletes would agree. There have been countless times where I ran well and had absolutely no idea how I did it. Yes, I worked hard to improve my times, but when you are in the moment of a race, or a game, that fades into the background, especially when everyone else has been working just as hard. It's just you, your race (or game), and God. That's it.

I could have not made the team. As a walk-on, there is more pressure for you to perform since the coaches did not seek you out; you sought them out. You are proving your abilities. Thus, I was nervous about my chances of actually making the team, especially considering the fact that the USC track team is arguably the best collegiate track team in the United States. I performed well during my try out and finished all the workouts, however I wasn't as fast as the other girls. In addition, I was 3 minutes late to my last day of tryouts and got chewed out by the coach for it. I was convinced that I blew my chances. And yet, somehow, I made it. I worked so hard for it, yes, but I thank God for keeping my body healthy so I could train to the best of my ability. I thank Him for allowing the coaches to have the time to try me out. I thank Him for allowing them to see my potential. I thank Him for giving me the best high school track coach possible who prepared me mentally and physically, as well as supported me throughout all the highs and all the lows. I thank Him for giving me this chance to continue my track career at the most prestigious collegiate team. My gratitude for all this, is simply infinite.

There is good reason why many athletes are religious; being an athlete requires you to be more than yourself. It requires you to dig deeper, into places that you didn't even think were possible, and really aren't without the belief of a higher power. The belief in a higher power, in whatever form or name that takes, means the belief in infinite possibility. And for an athlete to have that, means nothing can stop them from chasing their dreams.

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Trust Me, You're Going To Miss It

Yeah, cheerleading is its own kind of Hell, but don't take it for granted.
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Last week, I spent close to three hours watching videos from the recent Cheersport Nationals, a huge cheerleading competition held in Atlanta, GA.

As an ex-cheerleader, one that cheered for close to 11 years, I felt the familiar ache in my stomach watching all the teams I had grown up watching and idolizing take the stage I had taken so many times in Atlanta. As I watched the excitement of the crowd and felt the adrenaline through the computer screen, I realized something that I hadn't thought about in years: I would never have that feeling again.

And while I gave up cheerleading willingly, and pretty happily, I hardly ever thought about all the old memories and feelings I associated with the big bows, tight uniforms and copious amounts of glitter. But now, for the first time in years, I felt sad to not be up on the stage with all of the other athletes, doing something that had driven me absolutely insane at times but that had also been such a huge part in my life.

Take it from me, an old washed up cheerleader, that would probably break half the bones in my body if I even attempted a front walkover, you will miss cheerleading. It doesn't matter if you're an all-star that grew up in a gym, or a high-schooler that fell in love with the sport while on the sidelines, a part of you will always wish you could walk back onto that stage and compete just one more time.

I and every other retired cheerleader will attest to it: You're going to miss it.

You're going to miss the love/hate relationship you have with your coaches after they've been screaming at you for the better part of two hours.

You're going to miss the bond you have with your teammates, some that you won't see again after that last competition.

You're going to miss the ache in your feet associated with convention centers, and all the naps you took on their hard, concrete floors.

You're going to miss the headache from your ponytail, and having everything you own be covered in glitter for months at a time.

You're going to miss that feeling you get in the split second between "It's on," and when the music and that first 8-count starts. The feeling that makes you feel as though you're going to throw up, not be able to move, and forget your entire routine all at once.

But most of all, you're going to miss the feeling after you hit the routine you and your team have been practicing for months and the adrenaline high that comes with it. The feeling of being on top of the world, that's a drug in itself.

SEE ALSO: 20 Signs You Were A High School Cheerleader

So, while you have it, enjoy it. Because there are hundreds of ex-athletes that would absolutely kill to experience just one of those feelings again, and you get to have all of them.

Cover Image Credit: swishaaasweets.tumblr

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It's Been A Year And I Still Miss It

The memories with my teammates and coaches are remembered everyday.

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Never thought I'd say it but here I am. I am happy to say I am proud to be where I am today but the thoughts of never playing a sport again linger in my mind. Those emotions of anticipation and excitement when it comes to playing a sport are long gone. Sad to say I will never have butterflies before running a race, floor burns all over my knees and sweat mixed with softball dirt all over me.

The little aspects that I took for granted are what I remember the most. I am who I am today because of my coaches and teammates. Each and every sport came with a support system to fall back on and friendships that would last a lifetime. My coaches and teammates taught me life long skills that I will carry with me forever. They taught me the true meaning of dedication, teamwork, perseverance and respect. Yes, I love the game but the connections and memories I have built have impacted me. Especially, the times I have created with my teammates and coaches on the bus rides, practices and game days.

Those are the moments I will never get back. I will never forget the times my volleyball teammates and I would run over to Perkins after a win. We would eat junkie, greasy food till our tummies were full but during those moments we were all owning the moment while being young and careless. Even during track season my teammates and I found time to have fun while running rigorous workouts. I will never forget the mid-dance parties during track meets to keep our mind off of the stress of performing to our best ability. Softball season always seemed to be on the road, which meant plenty of bus rides with my teammates. Those hours of traveling were the best from the never have I ever games to singing along to great hits.

I will never get the chance again to compete in front of a crowd. The cheers and the roars of the fans is such a surreal feeling. Running on the blue oval was something I will never forget. As much as I hated the queasy, uneasy feelings before running, I would go back for it one more time. Stepping foot on the blue oval meant a great athlete once took those same steps I did. The moment my teammates, coaches and I clinched the win to go to State for the first time in school history was unbelievable. It was an accomplishment for us seniors, for our coaches, for our families and fans, for our school and for the past softball players. We did something that was never done before in school history and all I can say is I'm proud to have done it with the group of girls that I did.

Getting to state and playing with the best of the best is remarkable but what seemed to be even better was getting a victory against a city rival. Everyone came out for those games from grandparents to students to alumni. Our best performances were amongst us when competing against city rivals. Particularly, through volleyball, my teammates and I seemed to be hungrier for a win whenever it was a city rival. I guess, the best moments happened when we beat a cross-town rival. You could say we got bragging rights for the year.

To all the athletes out there competing in their last game, last match or last race, relish in those last seconds because before you know it you will never pick up a ball again, race in a relay or dance after a victory.

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