Pope Francis addressing the tennis and padel symposium Pope Francis addressing the tennis and padel symposium  (ANSA)

Pope: Sport must remain a game and a passion

Pope Francis addresses participants in the First International Tennis and Padel Symposium in Rome and highlights the close link between sport and education, reminding that sport must remain a game.

By Vatican News staff writer

Pope Francis on Saturday addressed teachers, children and young people hailing from over 30 countries to take part in the sixth International Tennis and Padel Symposium in Rome.

The event, taking place on 6 and 7 May, is focused on education and training.  Referring to this crucial aspect, in his speech the Pope highlighted the close link between sports and education.

The link between sports and education

"A tennis or padel instructor", the Pope said," is not only a teacher of techniques, but is also, and I would say above all, an 'educator'”.

He therefore encouraged those present to continue to give attention to this "educational dimension", and proposed a reflection based on the experience of padel players: that a good game results from the “right balance of offence and defence”.

The balance between risk and prudence

A good tennis or padel player, the Pope noted, “cannot always simply attack or take risks; he or she must also know how to mount a defence”. 

Similarly, “a teacher who concentrates solely on offence, or on defence, leaves the student ‘exposed’ on the other flank”. 

Therefore, “a good educator knows how to balance risk and prudence”.  Taking a risk is, for instance, allowing children to have a new experience that they have never had before, although it must always be proportionate to their capacities.

“True prudence, on the other hand, is like a good defence” and in the “in the work of education is essential for evaluating situations properly, keeping in mind the potential of each boy or girl”, the Pope said. 

“Educators should especially train young people to persevere, not to give up, and to try their best to respond to even the most difficult shots, since a quick and agile response can lead to a recovery that will catch the other player off guard, because it comes unexpected.”

The amateur dimension of sport

Concluding, Pope Francis highlighted what he considers the most important aspect of padel, and of any other sport: that it is a game, whose “educational value lies precisely in the way it is played”. 

“Competition", he said   "is healthy if it is all part of a ‘game’.  Once competition becomes everything, various forms of self-assertion take over and end up ruining sports, so that it becomes no longer educational, but exactly the opposite”, the Pope remarked. 

“There is one thing that in sport -- whether in tennis or padel or any sport -- we must never lose: amateurism, the amateur dimension. When we engage in sport for other interests, not for the gratuitousness of amateurs, we lose its beauty, we lose its “symphonic” dimension and sport becomes a business. Always keep this in mind: let my tennis, let my padel, always be amateur. Amateur; don't lose this dimension.”

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06 May 2023, 11:08