October 16, 2007

Sports and Mental Maturity

We've just been talking about how imagination is stunted today with modern non-entertaintment. We touched on how imagination will actually not get people "stuck in their own little worlds" but rather allow them to learn to distinguish reality from non-reality while having a "little world" that is truly flexible rather than crudely defined by others. We also have touched on the strange lack of outdoor play these days.

I thought I'd add something else I've noticed. Why are sports becoming something that one goes to training for more than something one does for fun with one's friends in the backyard? It seems odd, because the whole sports thing can be said to be about developing a strong body -- about good quality, in other words. Yet there's something mighty suspicious about it: if sports are about good quality, why do we hear so much about corruption in the professional sports world?

Could it be that the movement from free-ranging fun to formalized sports is part of a shift in focus from mental quality to physical?

Sports do require at least some mental quality: discipline and control of one's own will. Yet in general, the fascinating realm of thought is far more explored by kids who make up their own games with their friends than by kids who get stuck on a field and ordered around. At least, that's the impression I've gotten. I can't say for sure, but it certainly looks like it.

Now, don't get me wrong, sports are a good thing. What I'm pointing out is that sports in replacement of ordinary outdoor play is incomplete. Why is it incomplete? In sports you learn to follow orders. In normal outdoor play you learn the difficult art of negotiating when nobody can agree on an authority to take orders from. In sports you learn to focus on a certain goal and work hard to achieve it. In normal childhood adventuring you learn to think about what the goal is without some coach shoving his view of it down your throat.

I can't say that either of the two will guarantee developing character; we've seen too many examples of bad character come in people who've had one or the other. However, I do think that we need both to develop good character. I used to daydream a lot; now I have little in the way of keeping my life orderly. People who go in for sports alone are disciplined in what they do -- but we see they are often clueless as to what to do outside of winning games. We'll need to get back to having a balance of both if we want to look at either developing good character.

In essence, mental quality is more of a byproduct of sports, as physical quality is more of a byproduct of free play. If we want both qualities we have to have both practices and not focus on either to the detriment of, well, of the overall development of a person. The focus on formalized sports is a twofold danger. On the one hand it is focusing on only part of the story. On the other hand it is focusing on what may, in the grand scheme of things, be the lesser part. We must remember not to run our kids' energy out in sports and leave them some to toy with to make more balanced minds.

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Blogger ~Ambrose said...

You're leaving out a very important bit about sports.

For boys, at least, nothing gets them going as well as competition. To add support to this, public schools are getting rid of all competitiveness. (Yeah, we're in a hole. To show that something is good, I reference public schools getting rid of it.)

You're right, the creative play is good and nothing can replace Calvinball, but competitive sports are definitely good and need a place as well.

October 16, 2007 9:41 AM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Cobbler said...

Hmm, yes, very true. Although no-holes-barred free play is also good in that respect as it forces them, again, to learn to negotiate rather than just duke it out every time. But yes, competition's a factor in kids sports that's getting rather undervalued. I also find it odd how when it is valued people tend to want to leave out kids who aren't the best. There is a problem most people don't know how to solve concerning how to both include everyone in order to benefit everyone and yet not just be constantly having the ones who aren't as good be lost in the midst of those who are. The solution seems to me to be twofold: on the one hand, in organized sports keep people with those of roughly their level with just the occasional superchallenge mixed in, on the other hand let these kids who don't do as well in the preset environment redesign their own environment -- freeplay.

Ah, how could I forget Calvinball! 8^)

Yup, pretty much we need both and we don't seem to get both. Something must be done about the way sports are currently run so thatt the good things about sports aren't removed at the same time as the good things about non-sports. Hmm.

October 16, 2007 11:11 AM  

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