Today’s blog is written by PeacePlayers-International Development and Communications Intern Ruth Logan. She writes about athletes’ motivation to play their sport.
Why do athletes play their sport? Why do they keep practicing day in and day out? In the first few years of starting a sport, the focus is on fun and technique. Games are played on the field and in the pool to build self-confidence and strong friendships. Once a kid is in their pre-teens and teens, the emphasis often changes. Athletes develop measurable goals such as faster times, heavier weights, and more assists. Some athletes stay in the sport for fun while others for greater goals.
Studies have shown that sustained participation in sport is related to an ongoing positive experience, which includes having fun, improving skills, and having positive interactions with peers and adults. As a competitive swimmer for twelve years, I swam because I loved the water and four strokes. I kept with the sport for my deep passion of swimming. I also loved making new friendships on and off the pool deck. Working hard and supporting each other through hard practices creates strong bonds. I have made some of my best friends through swimming. Additionally, I had a strong and fun support system of my family, friends, and coaches.
At PeacePlayers International, participants stay for both the fun and larger goals. Our motto is “bridging divides, developing leaders, and changing perceptions.” Youth in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the Middle East have the chance to bridge long-standing divides, formed through identity differences and recent or ongoing conflict. On the basketball court Irish Catholics play with Protestants, Palestinian Arabs with Jews, Greek Cypriots with Turkish Cypriots. Friendships are formed across these divides and the children see each other outside of PeacePlayers. Families and neighborhoods gradually change. The PPI participants across the world can achieve high scores, assists, and plays, but their most worthwhile accomplishment is forging friendships on a level playing field.