Sport Philosophy

We will look at philosophy of sports in general, then look at resources for each sport.

Sport Philosophy


(Note: This is sport philosophy, not sport psychology. It is about the morality of sports, not about how to motivate people to do well in sports.)

“You must excuse me, but when I’m with the boys I make all the fun I can.” -Joseph Smith (see Truman G Madsen Joseph Smith lectures)

Many look upon sport team involvement as highlights to their school days. Sports can be an environment to channel energy in positive ways. Be careful to not be too trapped in the ultra-competitive school and community sports, where parents overly harp on children for performance. If the element of fun is present, the student will excel naturally and with minimal coaching. Naturally there is a time and place for hardcore coaching, hell weeks, running drills, technique drills, etc., but the sport is to be foremost a delight. If teams are too competitive to even let you play without selling your soul to be good enough, look to your siblings neighbors and others to have fantastic sporting experiences.

Which sports are better than others? Other than avoiding brain damage or other frequent and serious bodily damage, I don’t suppose some sports are much better than others. The skater is an athlete just as much as the footballer. The tennis player and footbag player win a strong bill of health just like the soccer player (not Hercules perhaps, but most of us don’t need to be Hercules).

A friend once told me this regarding the rectitude of skateboarding, a sometimes considered a shadowy hobby in today’s culture: “I don’t think there is anything wrong with skateboarding or any such sport. A person can enjoy almost any sport without indulging the lifestyles of the world that may typically be associated with the sport. That is the righteous separation – the separation of oneself from worldly behaviors, not from the sport itself. How many general conference talks reference sports and athletes to illustrate feats of righteousness and perseverance? …there are multitudes of faith-promoting parables that can be gleaned from sports. Happy skateboarding, Brother.”

As for peer pressure, it’s found in any sport, football, skating, dancing (see my dancing materials in a book of their own), has peer pressure. The dancer is tempted to dress less modestly than she needs to at both practice and while going through day to day life, and is tempted to judge her worth on her appearance. The skater is offered drugs and alcohol. The footballer is offered chewing tobacco alcohol and one-night stands. The wrestler is tempted to become anorexic to an unhealthy degree.

Those of any sport can be tempted to carry their passion to an extreme, which then gets in the way of religious and familial duties. The soccer mom can not have time for self or quiet time with the children because she runs around so much. The student can not have time to learn mathematics science reading literature drama music and other intellectual skills when the sport devours all attention.

Flexibility and strength helps athletes and intellectual students alike to avoid burn out as they’ll enjoy more comfort throughout the day, having gained this level of control over their bodies, which are central to any activity, or in other words, cannot be eliminated from any equation entirely. For most people, the happy way to exercise is through sports. A brilliant workout is one that you’ll actually be excited to do, and therefore, do. Buying a soccer ball may be much more effective than buying a treadmill. Workout equipment will appeal to athletes, but sporting equipment can appeal to almost everyone, even the “uncoordinated”.

Some claim that ‘sports build character’. This is true on some levels, but not entirely, or we would see without fail that the professional athletes were the towers of moral integrity in society. Someone has said that perhaps rather than sports building character, they reveal character. It has been said of Abraham that the reason he was commanded to do a hard thing was not for growth, but to learn how strong he was. Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham. Often sports can help young people to learn that when they apply the character traits they have learned (hard work, sharing, integrity, consistency/diligence, thoroughness, study, etc.), they can excel at things, and enjoy their lives. Can uncharactered people become good at sports? Yes, just as much as the traits to become a good bank robber also involve hard work, intelligence, team work, etc. So learning a sport or other trade doesn’t really build character (good character anyways), but it reveals character. Will Johnny stop to help the one who got hurt? Will he offer to teach a team mate who isn’t getting it? Will be practice at home when no one is looking? Will he refrain from cheating when no one would notice? Will he be truthful to his peers and leaders even when not doing so appears to promise short- or long-term gains? Will he resist the invariable harlots that will flirt with him as he becomes an excellent athlete (and chose the virtuous woman instead)?

-the prophetic ‘Family Proclamation to the World’ (1995) teaches that wholesome recreation is one of the key elements to successful family life.

-Elder Neal A Maxwell played tennis even into his late years.

-President Thomas S. Monson taught old folks in rest homes about how a football game works, so they can understand what is going on the television and enjoy it. He speaks about current ball games. He says fishing is good and spiritual. He says having animals and going to fairs is joyful. He says road shows and dance festivals are uplifting. He knows about what is going on in the local barber shop. Henry the 8th was his favorite Shakespeare play. Among his favorite theatrical works is the Phantom of the Opera. He enjoyed raising pigeons. (see book To The Rescue by Heidi Swinton)

-President Russel M Nelson skied even into his 90’s.

-President Monson was a regular swimmer.

-“Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work… Music, literature, art, dance, drama, athletics—all can provide entertainment to enrich one’s life and further consecrate it…” ” (Elder Christofferson in “Today’s Family: Chose Wholesome Recreation” at

-Make your entertainment high quality culture: “Too often we use many hours for fun and pleasure, clothed in the euphemism ‘I’m recharging my batteries.’ Those hours could be spent reading and studying to gain knowledge, skills, and culture.” (President Henry B Eyring in “Today’s Family: Chose Wholesome Recreation” at


-Don’t make entertainment your top priority: “In a materialistic age, when recreation and convenience are the suggested priorities of our society, we might all well ask ourselves, ‘How well are we providing for the spiritual well-being and strengthening of our families? …Are we clothing family members with ‘garments of salvation’ as anxiously as we provide clothing for their wardrobe? Is our diet of entertainment and recreation balanced with the food offered by Him who said, ‘Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely’ (Alma 5:34).” (Elder Ballard in “Today’s Family: Chose Wholesome Recreation” at


-“Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth…Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.” (Elder Oaks in “Today’s Family: Chose Wholesome Recreation” at

-Joseph Smith told one man who had done much work for the building up of God’s kingdom, that this brother needed to rest a while, to enjoy himself. The man responded, “I cannot”. Joseph said, “then you will die.” The man indeed later died a premature death, and Joseph spoke at his funeral. (see Truman G Madsen Joseph Smith lectures)

-When others chastised Joseph for playing sports, thinking that a prophet shouldn’t do such things, Joseph taught them that if you don’t unstring the bow from time to time, it loses its spring. This meant that to be effective he had to relax sometimes.

-Joseph Smith was known to be easily drawn to laughter, and frequently played with children and his brethren, playing sports and joking with them. He said we shouldn’t be too involved in the fantastic, but that a good sense of humor is of God. (see Truman G Madsen Joseph Smith lectures)

-Many saw Hyrum Smith as more prophet-like than Joseph, as Hyrum was less jovial and playful, but we know that these traits of Joseph helped him cope with his many trials, and uplift his fellows. (see Truman G Madsen Joseph Smith lectures)

-Joseph was hired as a farm hand not only because he was a hard worker, but because he could get the others to work too. (see Truman G Madsen Joseph Smith lectures)

-Remember to reserve the sabbath as a day free of sporting events:

“When a community or nation grows careless in its Sabbath activities, its religious life decays and all aspects of life are negatively affected. The blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath day holy are lost. We should refrain from shopping on the Sabbath and participating in other commercial and sporting activities that now commonly desecrate the Sabbath. Latter-day Saints should set this holy day apart from activities of the world by entering into a spirit of worship, thanksgiving, service, and family-centered activities appropriate to the Sabbath. As Church members endeavor to make their Sabbath activities compatible with the intent and Spirit of the Lord, their lives will be filled with joy and peace.” (Preach My Gospel: What Should I Study And Teach: The Commandments: Keep the Sabbath Day Holy;


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