The Power of Sports

Sport is as timeless as humanity itself. It has ensured societies are fit and healthy while building strong communities and boosting morale. In today’s age of internet, social media and online games, the substance of sports is more pertinent than ever. Competitive physical exercise doesn’t only motivate children and adults to keep fit, it also instils important personal and social values. Sport is often taken for granted, something that exists in the background, a bit of fun on certain days (if that) but not considered all that valuable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sport matters and its significance needs to be more widely discussed. Without it, several aspects of modern society will disintegrate. Sponsoring sports, inspiring young athletes, and increasing healthy competition helps individuals, communities and nations to thrive.

Sport has been scientifically proven to improve both the mental and social skills of an individual. Experts advise 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, but if playing sport this can be reduced down to 75 minutes to receive the same benefits. It is almost impossible to list all the health benefits associated with sport but below is more detail on the neurological and psychological welfare:

a) Neurological Benefits

“In terms of physical changes in the brain, sport releases dopamine and serotonin. As a result, risk of depression is reduced by up to 30%. These so-called “happiness” chemicals are essential for a stable and positive mood. Any form of exercise stimulates their production but sport seems to do so more effectively, especially when one scores a goal or wins a game.”

As sport is often practiced outdoors, individuals receive more vitamin D which has been shown to improve mood and lower the symptoms of depression. Taking vitamin D tablets can be used as a treatment for depression but receiving it directly from the sun is a more natural and effective method.

b) Psychological Benefits

“By releasing tension and increasing mental energy, anxiety levels are lowered. Part of this comes from the feeling of being in the zone; that almost meditative state when one is completely grounded in the present and focused on the task at hand. Conditions like ADHD can also be improved through sport. Despite being essentially physical, there’s a great deal of mental concentration needed to participate. Sports players are constantly making decisions, communicating with others, and watching fast-paced action. This improves focus and memory retention.”

The importance of sports extend beyond just an individual’s well-being. Sporting events are often the centre of communities and often bring people together. Every city in the world has its share of sports teams who compete for the entertainment of thousands of spectators. For many, watching their team come rain or shine is the most important part of the week. Because of their popularity, sports teams are also crucial to local economies. In 2018, the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation contributed 6,9 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This money goes back into society via taxes etc. Every town and city across the world has their own sports teams raising money, providing jobs, and keeping the local economy afloat. Towns require their own sense of identity in the same way that members of a state or nation feel a sense of belonging and connection. Sports teams help to create this identity. From their colours to the mascots and cheerleaders, communities are bonded over their shared commitment to a particular sport.

Team sports in particular are good for building social prowess. Firstly, they require a deeper level of communication. One can’t pass a ball through to a player without knowing where they plan to run. Being able to communicate this manoeuvre in the few seconds available requires active listening and the ability to read body language. This is a skill that is useful in everyday life but best learned on the sports field.

Secondly, team sports require one to place the good of the group above one’s own self-interest. In most team sports, how many one individual scores does not matter. All that matters is that the team wins. As a result, team sports teach one to be less selfish and therefore to be a better friend, sibling, parent, partner and human.

In international events, there’s a sense of unity as countries come together to back their team on the world stage. This can lead to a surge of optimism, for instance during the 2019 Netball World Cup, when the Zimbabwe team made waves and Zimbabwean supporters made history for being the “most enthusiastic fans”. Netball may not be a major event in Zimbabwe but many felt incredible pride watching their team win.

In the Olympic world, sports help give nations credibility but can also spark international conflict. For good and bad, the sports world is bigger and more powerful than ever, with athletes wielding more and more influence over culture and politics. Sports have the ability to transport individuals to another sphere, with for example, Manchester United supporters across the world rallying for the same team, same players, same coach bonded by the love of the sport. They learn a whole new language that’s relatable across horizontal and vertical lines of the world.

Sport covers every aspect of life. Whether one is a huge fan or couldn’t care less, the sporting world affects everyone. From the quality of a child’s education to the number of jobs available in one’s area, a thriving sports industry holds incredible benefits.

Sports have, without a shadow of doubt, influenced the way our societies function and must be placed at the forefront in Zimbabwe. On an individual level, health and wellbeing are important. For society as a whole, embracing sports means a more highly educated population, unified over their shared love of the game.

What needs to be done to rehabilitate the sporting industry in Zimbabwe? How do you plan on supporting sports in Zimbabwe? Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

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