Twelve-year-old me looked forward to one thing every day: swim practice. Every day, five days a week, I was in the pool churning out laps for at least an hour. And I did not want to be anywhere else.
Between dreams and aspirations of one day living Michael Phelpsian Olympic glory in the water, that hour a day was an important part of my daily Catholic education.
My mother, in her highly-structured homeschool curriculum, was adamant that physical activity was as important to my education as was the time I spent learning about the sacraments, the saints, the American Revolution, fractions and coefficients, and everything else a 12-year-old kid learns in school.
For centuries, it was commonly understood that an education, fully realized, included athletic practice and competition, and the practice of such things nurtured greater virtue and intelligence. The classically educated person nourished mind, body and soul.
Today, athletic competition is no less formative. It has the potential to impress and the potential to depress — to inspire celebration or disgust. And as such, it embraces the human experience, with all its highs, lows, twists and turns.