Nelson Mandela – an example in life and in sport

December 11, 2013
A football field is lit at twighlight

As our lives unfold, it is common for us to ask ourselves, what difference have I made, what will be my legacy after I am gone?

Few will be able to leave a legacy like Nelson Mandela. He died this past weekend at the age of 95 and the positive impact of his life on the entire world is being celebrated and acknowledged this week.

As politicians and celebrities from around the world gather in Johannesburg to mourn his death and celebrate his life, there is no shortage of sportspersons paying tribute to Mr. Mandela, for sports were very much part of his life. He was an amateur boxer and track athlete, he followed the sports most popular in his native South Africa including rugby, soccer and cricket. And he used sports to advance his ideals of equality and freedom.

The way Mr. Mandela lived his life reminds us of how we wish Canadians to live the True Sport Principles. In this case we think of: Go For It, Respect Others, Include Everyone, Play Fair, and Give Back.

Sport pursued according to the True Sport Principles allows individuals to pursue excellence within a mutually agreed to set of conditions. Athletes compete against each other to be the best. In so doing, they respect each other as individuals engaged in the same pursuit of human excellence.  They agree to test themselves against each other in a fair and safe competition. They share a passion and joy for their sport and the process of training and competing.

The ability of sport to change lives for the better was never lost on Nelson Mandela. And so we are reminded of how the True Sport Principle of "Include Everyone" has particular relevance as we consider how we might honour the example Mr. Mandela set throughout his life Finally, the principle of "Give Back" reminds us of the reciprocal connection between the sport we play and the communities that provide that opportunity.

As we reflect on the impact of Nelson Mandela's life, we should consider the positive impact a good sport experience can have on our children and our communities and draw inspiration from what Mr. Mandela has taught us.