Thursday 21 September 2017

Sinead Kissane: Time to reclaim sport for ourselves and resurrect an old pastime

Feeding on endless elite sport isn't the only way to enjoy the summer

Rory McIlroy (centre) and singer Niall Horan (right) with Conor McGregor
Rory McIlroy (centre) and singer Niall Horan (right) with Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

After the Lions players and coaches had finished their meetings and selected their gear for this summer's tour at a hotel in London earlier this week, they stood around in the reception area wearing their civvies as they waited to return home.

They almost blended in with everyone else because they weren't wearing the distinct Lions tracksuit armour. Johnny Sexton was laughing as he did face-time with his kids, Warren Gatland was like some version of Santa Claus lugging around a massive bag and Leigh Halfpenny was sitting in the corner looking more at ease compared to the video he posted on social media of him waiting nervously to see if his name would be called out for the Lions squad before celebrating with his family.

Watching them in their normal clothes doing ordinary things underlined how much we live moments of our lives through these players. The Lions tour to New Zealand is one of the major events of the summer.

There will be the annual tournaments like the GAA championship but there's no Euros, no World Cup, no other major once-in-four-years events.

Getting our kicks through people like Sexton and teams like the Lions is what makes watching sport special. The saturation of sport on TV means entire days could be spent watching other people live their lives. TV doesn't just feed this but also social media.

Look through Conor McGregor's Twitter and you'll see the huge events in his life recorded like a picture of him with his baby son. There's also the more ordinary stuff like him having a cup of coffee or the snapshots of his larger-than-life lifestyle of fur coats and fast cars. Getting glimpses of how the other one per cent live automatically makes you imagine what that must be like.

Our relationship with sport has long since broadened out from just watching games to consuming endless information about the people involved. It's not enough to know everything about McGregor in the cage but also McGregor in the glamorous bubble. Sport also isn't just about the personality but also extends to the pantomime.

jose (2).jpg
Jose Mourinho

There seems to be an insatiable thirst for what Jose Mourinho did next, who he's making eye contact with when, most of the time, it's just a vacuous sideshow until the next match. With all these added extras around sport to be gobbled up, it's hard to escape the nagging suspicion that we're missing out on something else.

What made you love sport in the first place? Maybe it was watching your team on TV but it might also have originated from how you felt playing sport as a kid. For me, I loved taking part in athletics, that spread into playing other sports along with going to watch games and watching sport on TV. I stopped running competitively at the age of 20 when I finished my undergrad in UCD. I haven't been a member of an athletics club, or any other kind of club, since then and besides the odd run here and there, I haven't had a regular pastime since.

The obvious reason for checking-out of our pastimes the older we get is because life gets in the way: families, jobs, two jobs, overtime, household chores and having less energy to focus on something which is easy to write off as a luxury when there are more important things to attend to.

There can also be a flippant yet natural tendency to view a pastime as something exclusively for kids.

If we see kids having fun playing soccer in the park, it's what we'd expect. If we see adults having fun playing soccer in the park, we might laugh at how they're acting like kids.

The older we get the more convenient it can become to solely get our sporting hits by watching it on TV. But should we really allow this become a substitute for the original reason we loved sport, which for most I'd imagine, was playing it?

I admire the adults I know who, irrespective of having kids and heavy workloads, still make sure to find space for their pastime and also for those who return to a pastime when life becomes less hectic, like retirement for example. Having a pastime doesn't have to come with a sell-by date. Who knew?

The 2015 Irish Sports Monitor Annual Report (which was based on phone interviews done throughout April 2015-April 2016 with 8,540 adults) measured adult participation in sport and physical activity. The report found that "45pc of the adult population participate regularly in sport equating to approximately 1.6 million people".

Among the findings were that "participation levels have declined for both genders". The reason for this? "Improving economic conditions and having less free time as a result may partially explain the declines in participation in sport," the report stated.

A lot of sport is packaged as being about the elite which makes it easy to use the excuse of a certain disconnect from sport when you're a grown-up. But there are so many opportunities to get back into it.

So, for those of us who haven't and who would like to resurrect a former pastime, maybe this summer we can reclaim sport for ourselves.

A lot of us found time to watch the Euros last summer, so maybe this will be the summer to finally do one of those hugely popular Park runs, get out the bikes, play that five-a-side, get my friends to finally play that game of rounders we've been promising to do for the past few summers.

Irish Independent

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