When spirit in sport becomes a killing thing, “sportuality” returns the joy in the games

Kalamazoo, MI—Listen to any sports cast, and you will hear the verbs “annihilate,” “beat,” “destroy,” “smash,” and even “kill.” It sounds like the language of war, but in fact, it has increasingly become the language of sports.

With her book, Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games, author and sports coach Jeanne Hess has brought to the forefront a new language for sports. With a word, with a thought, says the author, new ways of living—and playing—can begin. Understanding the words that go into our sports language is the first step to restoring joy into the games we profess to love.

In fact, Hess has found this “new” language by going back to the roots of words commonly used in sports. She returns to the roots of words such as competition, community, communication, spirit, humor, enthusiasm, education, religion, holiness, sanctuary, sacrifice and victory, to find out where we took the wrong turn and where we lost the joy.

“I had thoughts about words commonly used in sport, that when reconsidered to their original root became more useful in teaching peace and joy in our culture,” says Hess. “One of the first words I thought about was ‘competition’, with its Latin root as ‘competere,’ which means ‘to work with.’ Not ‘against with.’ What a paradigm shift to realize that those whom we often call enemy within sport are actually helping us work better, more effectively and to our highest potential.”

Sportuality, a concept of combining spirit with sport, is an examination of sports at all levels from a Western perspective, focusing on how it reflects our cultural belief in separation and dualistic thinking, as well as how sports can grow peace, understanding and joy. Sportuality crosses disciplines of sports and spirituality to help athletes, coaches, parents, and fans evolve a higher consciousness within sports and competition.

“I believe the ideas within sportuality are boundless; that one can use it as a tool for reflection and personal growth,” says Hess. “The concept of sportuality applied to teams or groups as a means to start positive conversation.”

Jeanne Hess grew up in suburban Detroit in the 1960s and came of age as a varsity athlete at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. The allure of sports and spirituality was nurtured throughout her 29-year career as a volleyball coach, professor of physical education, and college chaplain at Kalamazoo College, and by virtue of being the wife of a coach and the mother of two professional athletes.

Hess ranks in the top 30 all-time among NCAA Division III coaches, earning her 500th career victory on 2011. Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games is Jeanne Hess’ first book, and was released in January 2012. Since the book’s publication, Hess is now available to speak locally and nationally about sportuality to interested groups.