Who Says Sports Aren’t Important?

It’s more than just a soccer story.

Last week, despite odds of 50-1 against them winning the tournament, Iraq defeated Saudia Arabia to win the Asian Cup.

The win is even more significant when one considers that the eleven member team was composed of Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites – cultures known more for their violent clashes than for working together. Yet as a soccer team, religious and ethnic differences were put aside and they managed to do what over a dozen political parties and 275 members of their parliament have never been able to do. They united their country and gave them reason to celebrate.

Who says sports aren’t important?

While some may see soccer as a simplistic even frivolous activity, it also needs to be seen as a valuable and much needed diversion for a war-torn country or perhaps even the stress of our everyday life here in North America.

It’s also clear that sports contribute to pride and happiness as it’s a sure bet that any mention of the Asian Cup will bring a smile to the face of Iraqis for months to come.

Even for those who are not competing at a world class level, sports are important.

While it’s the physical and health benefits of sports that are most often promoted, it is perhaps the life lessons that are as much, if not more, important.

As a youngster, my first involvement with competitive sports began with swimming. At first I dreaded just getting into the water (why is it that municipal pools always seem to be filled with water from the Arctic?). However, it didn’t take me long to learn that it was easiest if I simply took a deep breath and dove right in.

It’s a philosophy that is transferable to real life as it taught me not to procrastinate and, when faced with a challenging task, just to jump right in. Swimming also taught me that even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it certainly does lead to improvement. Not surprisingly, it helped me grasp the important connection between hard work and results.

As a teenager getting involved with our school volleyball team taught me about the importance of goal setting and team play. I learned firsthand how a team with a vision and a lot of enthusiasm can win – even against a team with more skill and experience.

My involvement in competitive track and field taught me the most. I can vividly recall the exact moment I decided to get serious about running. I was 16 years old, heading home late one fall night after visiting a friend. Startled by what I thought were stealthy footsteps behind me, I started running. Quickly outdistancing my follower, I kept running….feeling strong, healthy and alive. It was a heady feeling for a teenager and one that I knew I wanted to experience again. I started training seriously, learning how to work hard, dig deep, and run through what was often referred to as the “wall of pain”. In doing so, I found reserves I didn’t know I had and learned that even when I was sure I couldn’t possibly bear it, I could and did. I did well in competition and along the way learned that anything is possible when you believe.

My life lessons in sports aren’t all that unique. Research shows that involvement in sports leads to an increase in confidence, self-esteem, feelings of success and greater life satisfaction.

So even though world-class soccer is never going to happen for the majority of us, we can still get involved in sports. Swimming, tennis, baseball, volleyball, golf, curling or even walking are great alternatives. Ultimately what’s most important is that we learn from our participation, and hopefully experience our own victories and reasons to celebrate along the way.


Posted on 08-07-07


I played both soccer and did track/cross country as well. Have that team support and learning how to play with good sportsmanship and take care of my body were helpful lessons as an adolescent. Sports should never be minimized.

•Posted by Jeff  on  10/09/13  at  12:28 PM

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