Eli A. Wolff and Mary A. Hums
Power of Sport Lab and University of Louisville

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11/05/2020 par Eli A. Wolff and Mary A. Hums

The Pillars of Connection, Innovation and Resilience in and through Sport

One of the world’s premier racing events, the Boston Marathon, did not take place this year as scheduled on Monday April 20. The cancellation of this classic race became another example of a traditional sporting event derailed by the coronavirus. Not to be deterred, 60 wheelchair racers from around the world came together on Zoom that same day to cover the course from their homes in order to honor and celebrate the race. Through this creative sign of solidarity and despite being separated by distance, these dedicated athletes were all united by sport. Three pillars essential in putting together this event illustrate the critical power and potential achieved in and through sport – connection, innovation and resilience.

Connection can mean so much. It can bring us out of isolation to rediscover joy and fuel our passion. Platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime allow us to continue to connect, mobilize and build community around the world. Activities, events, webinars, meetings, and yes sport, all foster and facilitate opportunities for connection.

In addition, these connections also create opportunities for inclusion where maybe they did not exist before. Technology allows for people with disabilities, parents/guardians at home with their children, or people having to work/live away from their home countries to now have a space opened up for their voices. This type of inclusion enriches any environment. As more voices are included in work, education, and sport, the possibilities for innovation increase exponentially.

We frequently hear the refrain that when we come out of the other side of this pandemic, there will be a “new normal.” Emerging slowly and safely will mean replacing some of our comfort zones with freshly minted or refined skill sets. One of the most essential of these skill sets without a doubt will be innovation.

Innovation is a central pillar to reimagining how we engage not just in encouraging creative ideas and inventions, but communities of people. The key elements of creativity and imagination help us to rethink how we move forward and implement our plans unfettered by the notion of “the way we have always done it.” Innovation enables people who want to act and explore differently to expand beyond the boundaries of the status quo. This includes the sporting environment with events large or small, meetings and conferences, teammates and friendships, and even sport related education. None of these will likely look or feel the same again, but success in the sport landscape can only be reignited if innovation takes the lead. This will take being open to ideas from all. This will take resolve. More than anything, this will take resilience.

Resilience is needed daily on personal and societal levels to promote positivity with a view toward a future that includes not just health and wealth, but also light and love. Turning ideas into reality, continuing to pursue one’s passion, working toward common goals, and staying strong through challenging times tests us to our very core. We can look to sport for inspiration here as some of our most inspiring moments are images of athletes or people with sporting backgrounds who never quit and stood strong in the face of adversity. Think of Muhammad Ali refusing to fight in an unjust war, Nelson Mandela never wavering despite his imprisonment, and Billie Jean King with her endless fight for women’s rights. Despite the odds, they never quit – they were resilient.

April 6 was the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace and the #BeActive, #StayActive and #WhiteCard activities all reflected the power of connection, innovation and resilience in and through sport. The amazing energy and emotion from these initiatives amplified the power of sport for peace and development worldwide.

Every day, incredible projects, initiatives, activities, and people show us the power of connection, innovation and resilience in and through sport, and in all realms of culture and society. The cast of Hamilton came together to sing together via Zoom on the new show Some Good News hosted by John Krasinski. Andrea Bocelli brought the world together with his solo performance from the Duomo di Milano on Easter Sunday. To quote Andy Beshear the Governor of the state of Kentucky in the United States and a selfless advocate for moving forward rationally in what seems an impossibly irrational circumstance, “We will get through this…We will get through this…TOGETHER.”

Ultimately, it will come down to each of us making choices to move forward together as a “team” and here is where we can take important lessons from sport. The teamwork we learn from sport can set a foundation for moving forward. The pillars of connection, innovation, and resilience will help support the scaffolding we will need for rebuilding our human community.


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