Author, speaker and coach, Ted Murray knows how to bring out the best in others. For over four decades he has coached future Olympic and grand slam tennis champions worldwide. Now he is the Executive Director of the Tennis Legacy Fund (TLF), a not for profit organization working with Tennis and athletic clubs worldwide to be more sustainability conscious. Ted knows how to bring out the best in kids and adults so they will become better leaders. As the World Cup is currently dominating the attention of the world , it’s a great time to examine the impact that sports has on society and how it affects all areas of life- from education to leadership.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and First President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has.” We can see how united countries are in support of their “football” teams (we would call this soccer here in the US). They are fanatical in backing their team, and the nation comes together to cheer their heroes as they do in the Olympics. The question is whether this unity actually inspires nations to achieve true greatness as a whole or whether it is directed negatively toward the opposing teams who are seen as the enemy.
Ted Murray states, “In over 40 years of tennis coaching and following a number of sports, I have witnessed the beauty of sports to inspire people to greatness as well as the negative impacts it has on lives when competition is taken to extremes. The question is really how we view the opponent or the opposing team. When they are seen as someone or something to be feared, the enemy that must be vanquished at all costs, then sports creates a warlike mentality that contributes to the ongoing division and violence in the world.”
There is another way. If the opponent is respected as a worthy adversary whose skill will challenge you to reach deep within yourself to discover strengths and character you didn’t know you had, then you are growing tremendously through the experience regardless of what the scoreboard says. Certainly striving to win can help everyone improve. However, the greatest coaches, such as John Wooden, never stressed the importance of winning, but rather the importance of preparing yourself to be worthy of winning.
What would happen to our education system if we took more of this approach instead of the winning is everything mentality? Instead of focusing on the test score we focused more on the process of discovery and learning that took place in order to achieve excellence. Instead of grading each unique individual on a standard scale and labeling students as winners and losers based upon that arbitrary standard, why can’t we recognize the unique gifts of each student and help inspire them to follow their passion to share their own unique gifts? Didn’t each of the professional athletes we so admire have to buck the accepted standard of getting an education to become a successful doctor or lawyer in order to follow their dream to play professional sports? Aren’t many of our current leaders in business and government former athletes who developed much of their character and leadership skills through sports?
If it is approached from the perspective of character development and respect for every individual, sports can have a fantastic impact on education. Nelson Mandela also said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If character building is the primary focus of sports, then sports can change education and the society as a whole. It is a question of focusing more on internal development rather than the scoreboard that only measures outward victories. Maybe is time for an inner game of leadership program to bring the most effective personal development skills learned in sports into the leadership arena.
Sport is already having an impact on education, even while Physical Education is being cut from many school curriculums. Major sports leagues are taking an active role in educating people about many important areas, even things like climate change. Even NASCAR is helping its fans learn more about their carbon footprint and how to save money by monitoring their energy usage. Non-profit organizations like the Tennis Legacy Fund are appearing in every sport category to help educate their fan base about the importance of sustainability.
There is no limit to the possible ways that sport can be a force for positive change in society. The question is how it is approached and taught to younger generations. If taught from a perspective of respecting the opposition and honoring their contribution to our own personal development then sport training may be the best developer of character possible. But if sports continue to foster only the idea that “I have to prove I am better than you based on the scoreboard”, then it will continue to add to the divisiveness and competition we see in the world.
Let’s take advantage of events like the World Cup and the Olympics to honor the glory of sport while dedicating ourselves to ensuring that sport is a beneficial force in the education of future generations. The Executive Director of TLF, Ted Murray has over forty years in the tennis industry, including twenty years as a founding member of Peter Burwash International (PBI) plus ten years as owner of a tennis and fitness club in Florida. He has trained adults and children in thirty-five countries, including future Olympic medalists and Grand Slam champions. He is co-author of Tennis Unlimited and his latest book is Tennis from the Heart: Pursuing the Dream.
To discuss how you can impact the world through the Tennis Legacy Fund go to: http://tennisfromtheheart.com/tennis-legacy-fund/.