By Jeanne Hess

Like a lot of people born and raised in Michigan, I have a positive relationship with Florida. Even as a child in the 60’s I remember my grandparents returning from their annual Florida sojurn with gifts of shells and orange perfume. I think I smelled like oranges for most of my formative years. Maybe it’s what kept me coming back to the Sunshine State. From spring break trips to family vacations, to spring trips with the Kalamazoo College softball team, Florida kept calling. When my sons were drafted by the Detroit Tigers and made Lakeland a second home, we began to know Florida as more than just a vacation spot. And now a dear friend has relocated to St. Petersburg, and we’re making plans to visit and bring in the New Year. Next to Michigan, Florida is probably the state where we’ve spent the most time … it has become our second home.

Lakeland was the setting for a story in my book Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games, where I describe the word “community” with thoughts about spring training. Literally, the word means “to have charge of together” so during the years when our sons played, we experienced the commitment of the Lakeland community to our Detroit Tigers, and therefore unity through sport.

SportualityHowever, while I have enjoyed a peek at the sun this weekend, my most recent time in Florida has been spent indoors at a seminar co-hosted by The University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program, the Institute for International Sport, and The Fetzer Institute from my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  This was an intentional community of sport lovers, students, teachers, motivators, and leaders, gathered at a Symposium on Love and Forgiveness in Sport. Now, before you go all “there IS no love and forgiveness in sport” on me, please know that everyone left this hotel with a greater understanding of the power of sport to grow, shape and change cultural norms and outcomes.

From the Red Bandanna Project with Allison Crowther, the mother of Welles Crowther, a 9/11 hero in the last hour of his life, toJackie Joyner-Kersee’s Foundation providing young women the tools to succeed, to a video presentation by the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace & Society on Coach Pat Summit’s legacy program for Iraqi girls, this 3 day-long symposium featured 12 presentations and breakout sessions where everyone engaged on the level of love and forgiveness. It is one thing to sit among adult colleagues or in religious circles to engage these ideas. But to bring them into the academic arena and to see graduate students in sport management critically discussing what are traditionally spiritual values gives me hope for the fate of our games, toward certain joy in the outcomes.


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