From the pandemic to the “restart”

The first of four webinars on the future of sports in the era of COVID-19

“The current situation runs the risk of driving people away from sports, especially young people, and especially all those who live in disadvantaged countries most affected by the economic crisis.” Yet “the educational value of sports cannot be overlooked if we want to create a better world for everyone. Giving young people the chance to particulate regularly in sports means giving them an exceptional means of deepening their human formation and personal growth. […] The Church is concerned with all of this because, like a mother, she takes to heart the integral good of the human person and harmonious social coexistence.”

And so on 1 October, the Prefect Card. Kevin Farrell opened the first session in a series of four webinars on sports, sponsored by our Dicastery, for the encouragement of the best “restart” of sports in society.

The goal, explained the Prefect, is to “promote an ‘intersectional’ reflection on sports, which can bring believers and non-believers together in the sharing of different experiences and points of view, among professionals and amateurs, managers and athletes, young people and adults, and those from more developed countries and less developed ones.”

Gian Paolo Montali, general director of the Ryder Cup 2023, spoke of an “opportunity to re-think sports in different ways, especially in the design of health-related alternative scenarios and prevention procedures that have never been undertaken before now. We must be ready to try with new working methods for our teams as well as with equally novel professional guidelines.”

Another aspect highlighted by Montali is how the pandemic has “forced our communities to stop participating in sports, which is also due to the difficulty of identifying structures apt for the practice of sports on both a group and individual level. But this lengthy inactivity induces physical and motor damage in children, adults, and in the elderly. Sooner or later,” he emphasized, “this will have an impact on a public health level, and thus also on municipal budgets. Not to mention the social and relational aspects: sports imply respect for rules, specific roles, and the integration of diversity—the educational aspect of sports must be safeguarded.”

Mark Nesti, a sports psychologist, spoke about the impact of the pandemic and how he reminded athletes “that they are part of the wider world.” “At times it may seem that the world of sports is its own little bubble, especially at the highest levels. And this is completely understandable, because there are so many things at stake, so much passion, so much in play… But yet, sports have come to a halt. And so,” concluded Nesti, “this is an opportunity to develop new ways of viewing sports as not only something physical, technical, tactical, and psychological, but also as a vehicle for spiritual development.”

The next webinar, which will also be available via streaming on the Dicastery’s YouTube channel, will be held Thursday 8 October, on the theme of: “Giving the best of oneself: sports as a model of life.” Speakers will include Rev. Patrick Kelly, SJ, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy; Dyan Castillejo-Garcia, former tennis player and sports journalist; and Wolfgang Baumann, General Secretary of TAFISA and member of the International Olympic Committee.

To register, click here

05 October 2020