by Dr Lize- Mari van Staden
What is it about this activity that draws us towards it…as athletes, spectators and businesses? What is Sport made up of that we sacrifice time, money and energy into it sometimes without even thinking twice? And can we live without it? Can we dream without it? Can we earn a living without it? Can we travel the world without it? Can we become who we were meant to be without it?
Sport is something I have valued from a very young age. It was a big part of both my parents’ families and it naturally became a big part of mine. I think it is naturally a big part of South African culture. Having the warm weather on our side it is easy to go outside for a swim or a game of catch. Dads dream of their young boys becoming stars and moms dread the day their son gets his first concussion in a rugby match! But it is all a part of our lives, integrated into our families and defining who we are and want to be.
As a child I was extremely shy. Finding it difficult to make friends and I feared failure and disappointment. I would rather hide in the shadows than be seen. This was me until 10 years of age when swimming became not only part of my world but my WHOLE world. I was forced to swim from 8 years of age after a coach from South Africa Bloemfontein spotted my talent. It took a good two years but when I started to achieve and grow, breaking free from my outer shell, I thrived. It was like planting a stubborn seed into the chlorine rich pool and slowly watching it sprout roots, then a stem and finally bloom an amazing shade of pride, achievement and belonging.
At 8 I started swimming but by 11 years old I changed my life by dreaming the Olympic dream. I set into course a series of choices and actions that eventually got me to the big O in Beijing 2018. I had many people rooting for me and that helped me chase this dream. My parents being the most active, and of course my coaches and then my doctors, physios and training advisers. Every person contributing a piece to the puzzle. My puzzle continued but took a different path as I graduated from medical school in 2014 but my passion for sport never died. It only continued to grow as I discovered what role medicine can play in sport and subsequently what role sport (exercise) can play in medicine (treatment).
So coming back to my original question, what is Sport? There are probably a million (total over exaggeration) different definitions and scientific opinions that I will probably get to in future blog entries….but for me, from experience, sport is a gateway for personal development and fulfillment. It realizes dreams, builds character, creates jobs and helps a person feel like they belong somewhere is this crazy world. I have been to Nigeria for the All Africa Games and seen men with polio coming together, seated on altered skateboards, to play a game of basketball in the park. Where there once was despair and the thought of nothing, sport created a something…a somebody.
Sport is a culture and a way of life that I wish to continue to participate in so that my contributions can somehow be a part of someone else’s puzzle to becoming who they need to be.