“Practice makes Perfect.” We have all heard this saying growing up, but have we really taken the time to stop and think about what it means? Perfection is when something is done without error. Another word for perfection is excellence, and this is something we all strive for. We all have a desire to be excellent because we long to return to our true nature. To return to our nature of excellence we must direct actions toward excellence. Excellence comes when an act is done in accordance to the nature of what is being acted upon.
When we choose to act in a way that promotes the nature of that which we act upon, the action can reach fulfillment. However, achieving excellence is a very difficult task because more often than not we meet failure along the way. Failure leads us to be discouraged and gives us a choice to give up or persevere to excellence. Yet, in a society where “everyone wins,” I notice contentment with failure is common, especially with young men. In order to combat against a society of contentment with failure, young men must learn the value of perseverance and discipline, and what better way to do this than through sports?
Sports can play a major role in the development of young men. This is not to say that all boys must be gifted in sports to be a great man, but even sports in the form of play can instill value in young men. Sports ignite eagerness for excellence that will allow one to achieve a goal they desire. However, to achieve said goal, the athlete must develop the virtues to obtain it. Sports can teach a man a great deal about virtue. Socrates once said, “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Man was made to achieve excellence because that is where we find true happiness. Athletes must formulate good habits in order to achieve excellence in their sport. There is a right and wrong way to play sports, which is why one must develop knowledge of the game in order to perfect their play toward the purpose of the game. All athletes know what they need to do, but they must find the drive to do it. The desire in their hearts is naturally there, but they must work to develop good habits in order to achieve those desires. When athletes learn to direct their mind and attitude to the desires of their heart they will find satisfaction.
Yet, the athlete must know that failure will always make its way in to the path toward excellence. For this reason, the athlete must develop a virtue in perseverance and discipline. There is often a great desire in sports or quick satisfaction and if it is not obtained in a quick manner, quitting becomes very easy. A true athlete however, learns to overcome his failures by perseverance and disciplining himself to learn the correct way to achieve his goal. He also surrounds himself with coaches and teammates who encourage and guide him to achieve their goal. For example, I was a track runner and had a goal of breaking a certain time in the 800 meters in high school. However, injuries interfered and it became very easy for me to make this an excuse to give up, which I partially did. Yet, thanks to my Dad, brothers, and coaches, I was motivated to continue to persevere after my goal. Their encouragement led me to discipline myself through diet and training schedules, which allowed me to finally reach my goal in my senior year of college. The point being, I wanted my goal to come easy, but thanks to injury and failure I was able to develop a virtue of discipline and perseverance. The injuries led to failures, but overcoming these failures led me to achieve satisfaction not only my sport but in my life.
Sports, when done correctly, can be a means to an end for life. Let us not trivialize the gift of sports by making it an “everyone wins” event. Failure is important and builds character especially at a young age. If we can’t teach young men to counteract failure with the virtue of perseverance and discipline in sports, how are they going to cope with things when they become hard in their marriage or at work? We need to teach young men the correct way to play sports so that it can reflect their actions in life. In doing so they can develop their natural desire to recover the excellence that was once lost. It is imperative that we encourage young men to practice discipline and perseverance in life so that they can form these virtues in their path to the eternal goal.