What’s in a game: arete

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The relationship between academics and NCAA sports provides a distinct challenge for student athletes. Despite obvious differences between the two, they are ultimately very similar in their purpose and work symbiotically to enrich one another. 

Every student here at the University of Dallas knows that the curriculum, especially the Core, is an enormous challenge. Student athletes must balance  the challenge of academic coursework, practicing late, traveling for games and watching game footage at team meetings. 

Most broadly, academic study is the exchange of ideas from one to another in the pursuit of knowledge and of truth.

 Over time, countless voices have contributed to a multitude of broader discussions regarding the most fundamental human questions. At UD, students are encouraged to bring their own voices to the discussions borne out by intellectual history, each idea put forward in light of countless others. 

Learning is the process of listening to the ideas of others, considering them independently, and  forming an individual understanding of the issue at hand. So long as the intent of academic study is to discover truth, interlocutors test each of their arguments against the knowledge of the others. 

Thus, via respectful quarrelling, students endeavour not only to better themselves, but also their opponent. The object of argument is victory, the purpose of discussion is growth in knowledge and wisdom. This process of discovery is quarreling, discussion between peers in the form of exchange of arguments, the victor being decided by which of the two opponents argued more completely and finely. 

Similarly, in sports, athletes on two or more teams come together in competition to test one anothers skill and display their own. Tactics employed to destroy or humiliate opponents are generally considered unsportsmanlike. That is to say, true sportsmanship is that which seeks fair and honest competition with an opponent in pursuit of excellence. 

I would contend that, for the purpose of sports, an opponent is a fellow athlete who, in pursuit of excellence, serves as a test of one’s own skill in the course of competition. To play a sport against another athlete is to challenge one another’s skill and focus. In the end, both athletes hone their excellence when challenged in the arena of a sport.

While the object of the game is victory, the purpose of the competition is the pursuit of excellence in character and athletic prowess. 

In both sports and academics, the end goal is greater skill and virtue by exchange of ideas or skill. The comradery forged on the athletic fields is exactly the kind required for academic growth. 

The deep-rooted desire to make your teammates and opponents better people and better athletes in the course of the game is the same spirit necessary for rigorous pursuit of truth. The student-athlete who performs this goal well becomes a better athlete, a better student and ultimately, a better person. There are few better ways to pursue truth than through athletics coupled with an understanding of respectful and rigorous competition. 

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