Prudence In Sport

Growing up sport was my life, deeply seeded in my being. I had a lot of heart, was a fierce competitor, not afraid to go head to head with the competition. For me getting injured was never a dwelling thought. Fast-forward to my freshman year in high school. I was on the soccer team; it was the second pre-season game. I was playing forward and went head to head against a girl who had at least 30lbs on me. Of course, I went for the ball. Moments later I feel my knee cap pop out and back in, along with a loud pop. Bam. I was laid out and my mom had to carry me off the field. (Can you say embarrassing?) An MRI confirmed it was a torn ACL. It was only partially torn so I didn’t have surgery, but my mom told me that I could not play anymore. Soccer was my life, my identity. At the time I did not understand that they were thinking of my future. My parents wanted me to enjoy my sport, without the risk for injury. A majority of parents put their kids in a sport/practice so that they can obtain moral values, learn to work together, and develop mental and physical strength. In opposition you have the parents who only seek to live vicariously through their kin pressuring them to seek the external rewards of practice; imprinting into their subconscious the notion they have one chance to accelerate and “make it big”. Why should one participate in a practice or sport? Should risk play a role in participation? Without my parents prudent thinking, what would have been the consequences? It is common knowledge that everyBODY is different; it is a learned skill to know what is right for YOU.

In the article by W. Miller Brown, he discusses how prudence is important in the practice of sport. We must not only think in the now, but also focus on how the now may affect our future. Though thoughts of future effects of current practices play an important role in sustaining long lasting skill/fitness level, we must first acknowledge why one participates. Brown speaks of the internal and external goods that accompany practices. Internal goods consist of virtues such as fairness, honesty, and courage. External goods are that of which are not a direct result of the practice, but are offered to those who excel, these include; money, power, fame, vanity etc. I believe it is about finding balance. The internal allows one to develop good morals and values. The external goods tend to cloud that of the internal, shifting what was once fun and enjoyable to an activity that is driven by institutionalization of sports. Institutionalization plays an important role in sustaining practices; it brings a sense of community and allows one to develop important human capacities that transcend the practice itself. Brown states that “if institutions are needed to sustain practices, they are also by their nature liable to affect them by offering external goods and seeking to substitute them for internal goods intrinsic to the practices they nurture”.  We must be mindful when participating in a practice, and not get swept away by the enticing external goods highlighted by institutions. Remember WHY we participate in the first place.

Risk is an apparent part of living an active life. How much should one risk in order to fulfill their need for internal/external goods? Brown makes reference to the prudential athletic life (PAL). “Our well-being when old is equally important as our well-being when young, the second is the prudential strategy of keeping our options open. “ There are always risks when participating in any physical practice. Brown acknowledges, “ We seek the challenge of doing well something of great difficulty”. It is the risk that may attract ones participation for a sport or practice. Knowing the risks is the most important part. Some are motivated by the high risk of a practice (I.e. Football, boxing, rock climbing, etc.) This is where prudent judgments must be made; if we do injure ourselves we must use that to learn more about ourselves. It is common to come across an individual who has had multiple knee surgeries from participation in practice. What is their drive behind wanting to get back on the field?

People tend to forget that we do not have to stick to one practice in this lifetime. Brown notes that a lot of motor skill developed with one particular practice will translate well to other practices. Life is about branching out, having new encounters, new experiences, knowing when to let go and move on. There is a thin veil between testing the limits and pushing way past the limits. Injuries happen and can play a role in teaching us internal values such as patience. My parents not allowing me to participate in soccer was a prudent choice, in which I currently thank them. Prudence involves a balancing between being overly cautious and pushing just the right amount.  We must learn to experience and enjoy the now while keeping in mind the effects in may have on your overall health in the future. An example would be the career of a professional football player, most football players suffer major physical consequences for all of the high impact entailed in the sport, and they make a conscious choice to play in light of the consequences. This is a direct result of the external goods highlighted by institutions.

People need external gratification to fulfill their need for approval and to feel accepted. We strive for good health, but in the process are mindless in our actions and push ourselves to far to early, leaving the later years to dwell on the consequences. Being prudent is about balancing the risk to benefit of a practice and being cautious of how our current actions directly affect our future.

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