With our schedules empty, we are able to pinpoint what we miss most about everyday life, and for me that is sports.

Amid a build-up of anticipation in the sports world, the coronavirus hit home. With empty schedules due to the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing measures, this pandemic has given people the time to reflect on how we choose to fill our calendars and what we value in our day-to-day lives. For me, my mind went to sports.

 In the coming months, sports fans were looking forward to March Madness, the Major League Baseball season, the National Football League Draft and the 32nd Summer Olympic Games. 

According to Forbes, about 100 million people tuned into March Madness in 2019, the MLB drew in nearly 110 million fans each season, CNBC tallied 180 million viewers for last year’s NFL season and Statista.com found that 3.6 billion people watched the 2016 summer games. This is not including the millions of fans physically present at the games. Many people in our world delight in sports, but from tee-ball to the Olympic Games, no sporting events are taking place during this time. 

I can see why so many gather to watch sporting events, throw parties in honor of their favorite home teams, spend thousands of dollars on season tickets and vow to never miss a game. Sports bring excitement to many people’s lives. Cheering on your favorite athletes, wearing your team’s logo and conversing with other fans is what puts a smile on billions of people’s faces daily. 

Our world has a lot of hurt and brokenness, yet sports has the ability to bring people together. With 7.8 billion people living in the world today, it is incredible that there are aspects of life that can unite people. The love of sports brings both athletes and fans happiness, it cultivates community and can give people a sense of belonging in a world where everyone strives to feel included. 

This has affected me personally as well because it includes my sport: swimming. I am a Division II collegiate athlete, and even though I was able to finish out my season before this pandemic, it is easy to say that my days are not the same without the feel of the water.

I have been swimming competitively since I was 10 years old and over the past 10 years, the longest consecutive break I have taken from the sport has been three weeks. Because gyms and pools are shut down, I am currently going on my fifth week since being in a pool. This may not sound long, but for me, it has felt like forever. Swimming not only brings me an insurmountable amount of joy, but it also allows me to attend an incredible university, be physically active and has put people in my life that I will cherish forever. 

To get where I am today, I have spent countless hours practicing, competing and devoting the vast majority of my time to this sport. Now that I am unable to swim, the first feeling I experienced was fear. Questions raced through my mind: “What if I get substantially slower? What if this leads to my scholarship being taken away? What will happen if I can’t swim in college anymore? How long will it take me to bounce back from this?” Since the mandated shelter in place has taken away my freedom to swim, I have realized how much of what I do revolves around this area of my life. 

Swimming has become more than just a sport to me. It has provided me with a support system, a community, life-long friends, mentors, has taught me so much about who I am and opened up the talents that God has given me. Not only is swimming good for my mental health, but it has improved my physical health, giving me the ability to move my body and remain healthy. 

I miss the way swimming makes me feel; I miss my community; I miss the sense of accomplishment it brings me. I now can see why our society puts so much emphasis on sports and all they have to offer.

I believe it is okay to enjoy the little things in life, whether it is sports, art, music, writing, or whatever else brings a person happiness. I am reminding myself daily that they are not the end-all-be-all. Even though swimming is a huge part of my life, as a follower of Christ I know that what we will experience in Heaven is far greater than anything we will experience on earth. I have a hope knowing that the joys of this world are just a taste of what is to come.

For all of the fans and athletes that cannot wait to get back to doing what they love, this season will only allow us to gain a greater appreciation for sports. They can be a healthy outlet and escape for people during the challenges that come with life. So when games, meets, races, and competitions pick back up again, I know myself and all the sports fans out there will cherish the unity, passion, and enjoyment that come from being a part of the world of sports.