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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

3 lessons from the world of sports – 2022 Edition

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

three figures stand on the podium to receive gold, silver, and bronze trophies

February is a big month in the world of sports. We kick off with the Winter Olympics, which only come once every four years. Can’t miss all that skiing and skating! Then we add the Super Bowl. Let’s party! Throw in college basketball and you have a sports junkie’s dream. Who cares if the weather outside is frightful?!

As a lukewarm sports follower, I recognized 3 lessons sports can teach all of us, whether we know a single statistic or can identify a single athlete.

Sports can bring us together

Where will you be on the night of February 13, 2022? For nearly 100 million Americans the answer will be… watching the Super Bowl. And many will do so with family and friends.

Pre-COVID, Super Bowl gatherings averaged 17 guests. This year, as in 2021, gatherings will be smaller, but very few people watch the game alone. Many viewers will not care whether the Rams or the Bengals win, they will enjoy the excuse to hang out with others… and eat... a lot!

Super Bowl parties account for the second-largest eating holiday of the year, after Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey and pumpkin pie, we collectively eat 1.3 billion chicken wings, 12.5 million pizzas, 11 million pounds of chips, and 8 million pounds of guacamole.

We wash down all that food with 50 million cases of beer, not to mention hard liquor and soft drinks. Not exactly MyPlate, but that’s okay. The Super Bowl still brings us together.

Sports can bring the world together

Where will you be on any given night between February 4th and 20th? Or, almost any time of the day or night? Will you be watching the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics?

Will you watch the opening ceremonies when athletes representing 91 nations march in together?

Will you tune in to watch alpine skiing, figure skating, curling, bobsledding, or luge? If it weren’t for the Olympics some of these sports would remain unknown to many of us.

The Olympics can unite us. How many of us will watch one or more events in the Olympics? An estimated 3 billion people around the world tuned in to watch the Tokyo Summer Olympics, held in 2021 instead of 2020. That’s a lot of us!

The Olympics showcases the best about sport… physical talent mixed with determination and dedication. Hours of practice, overcoming obstacles, the pursuit of excellence.

With nearly 3,000 athletes competing in 109 medal events (including 7 new events for 2022), the vast majority of athletes will not stand on the podium and hear their national anthem. That’s okay, competing is a thrill they will never forget.

Losing doesn’t make us losers

Every sporting event has losers as well as winners. In the Olympics “losers” outnumber winners by a large margin. In events like the Super Bowl, there is one of each. Losing is hard. Losing is disappointing. But losing doesn’t make us losers. To get to these events is a remarkable feat.

During February, college basketball teams are hot in pursuit of a top seed in the NCAA tournament in March. Team rankings fluctuate constantly. My beloved Purdue Boilermakers were in the #4 position at the time I wrote this post, up from the previous week but down from the #1 position they held briefly in December 2021, a spot no one maintains forever.

In sports, the pursuit of the top spot creates a sense of “losing” for everyone in 2nd place and below. Although the desire to win is expected and encouraged, we benefit more from the pursuit of excellence in athleticism, teamwork, sportsmanship, and the joy of participation.

Remember, losing in sports; but then we regroup, learn from our mistakes, and keep on playing. Life is like that, isn’t it? We “lose” a game, maybe even a season, but we aren’t losers. We learn, we grow, we get a dose of reality, and we keep on going.

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” ~ Wilma Rudolph

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