Free & Fit NYC - A Reflection by Tim Cheux - An Introduction to Sport & Spirituality

Free & Fit NYC - A Reflection by Tim Cheux - An Introduction to Sport & Spirituality

Introduction to Sport and Spirituality

The growth and emergence of Sport and Spirituality is attributed by some scholars to the Anglo-Saxon movement of “Muscular Christianity’ (Parry, J. Robinson, S. Watson, N.J. and Nesti, M. 2007). In order to engage with the history, culture and tradition of Sport and Spirituality we also have to consider the rise of female participation within Sport and Spirituality. At the London Olympic Games in 2012, 44.3% of the athletes were women (Adriaanse, J., & Schofield, T. (2014).

The rise of female sports participation, spiritual exercises and its links to spirituality through non-Christian faith practices including Yoga, Pilates also offer new and interesting developments of Sport and Christianity. Romans 12:1-2 explains this well.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’

Sport provides us with the ability to transform our minds and the Holy Spirit can discern and approve what is God’s will. Through Ignatius prayer we can discern God’s will as described by Father Timothy Gallagher of the Roman Catholic Church. The link between sport and spirituality grows through Spiritual Direction and Gallagher helps us to recognize the ability for an individual to use Ignatius prayer to meditate on the word of God. When we are participating in sport we are presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice in worship which is also later explored in new concepts of Sport and Spirituality.

Hebrews 12:1-2 informs us of a more traditional sport and the benefits of continuing to run the Christian race.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “ 

Running also enables us to get back on the road to a pathway and pursuit to Jesus Christ and ultimately eternal salvation. Today we will explore how together, independently and with God we can use Sport and Spirituality to honor the bodies we have received from our Almighty using the Word of God to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

What is Sport and Spirituality?

“One mile to go. You are turning right at Big Ben and into the last mile. How can you feel so good when the legs ache so much? But you do feel good. In fact you feel so good that you are getting a second and third wind. Feels like you are sprinting now- only pausing to encourage some of the guys who have slowed down to a walk. By the time you have reached Buckingham Palace all the old aches are back but it doesn’t matter anymore. It's like you have been released from your body. Its more than a runner’s high, it feels as though you are outside yourself, but at the same time truly yourself. All these things connect you with your Spirit, your real self.’

Jon Green, London Marathon, 2003. (Parry, J. Robinson, S. Watson, N.J. and Nesti, M. 2007). 

Firstly, when we refer to Spirituality we are talking about Christian Spirituality. For the purposes of a definition for Spirituality we may refer to the traditional Church definition given as the “Practice of Worship, Devotion and Prayer which enables an awareness of the Holy Spirit (James, 1968).”

However, in the context of Sport, other denominations (Catholic), other faiths and new age spirituality Marlatt and Kristeller (2003) state that this type of meditation in the running context aims to create mindfulness, an awareness and centeredness. This can be perceived as a “runners high” where there is an experience through contemplation of transcendence and direct dialogue between the individual and God whilst running in the Lords creation.