Throughout history, sporting victories are revered as shows of genius and heralded as if some of God’s brilliance is sprinkled on to the athletes. At its most perfect, sport is transcendent and makes all who witness it feel blessed that they are in attendance. But what we fans don’t see is what happens away from the limelight. The struggles, disappointments and failures are all part of sport as much as the victories. One athlete who experienced these struggles – and then some – was the late, great Arthur Ashe. Instead of developing a siege mentality, he won over the hearts of people with his actions.
In the present day, many of us are extremely privileged to attend school and make the most of the wonderful opportunities available. We at Warwick have been beneficiaries of these chances. However, Arthur Ashe’s story couldn’t be more different. Despite playing tennis at school, at age 12 he was denied entry into the Richmond City Tournament because of his ethnicity. At that time this was the law, and simply extraordinary to think of today.
He showed future generations that if you believe, you will win: you just have to be patient
Youngsters like Ashe were made to face this injustice on a regular basis, sometimes with no explanation. He would have been justified in feeling frustrated and angry, but Ashe was mature beyond his age. He showed future generations that if you believe, you will win: you just have to be patient.
Nowadays, athletes are so occupied by their sporting careers that they are unwilling to fight for causes that matter. Training and public endorsements dominate their daily lives. Again, Ashe was different. Leading the newly-formed Association of Tennis Players (ATP), he fought for the rights of players.
Today’s stars are now reaping the rewards of the hard work Ashe put in all those years ago. He even boycotted Wimbledon because of an unjustified ban handed to fellow player Niki Pilic. Instead of prioritising his own short term gain, he stuck to his morals and took the decision that reaped rewards for the long term stability of tennis. This is something all of us can learn from, even in the university bubble.
despite the debilitating nature of his illness, he saw the positives and took it as an opportunity to raise awareness
Whenever we are dealt a wrongdoing, we feel as if the world is completely against us. “Why does this always happen to me?” is the common question we ask ourselves. I would hate to imagine what would go through our heads if we had the same battles as Arthur Ashe. Not only did he have to face adversity due to the colour of his skin, but he was also HIV positive in later life. Many people would have forgiven the champion if he became secluded from society, hardly making a public appearance. But despite the debilitating nature of his illness, he saw the positives and took it as an opportunity to raise awareness. He regularly gave classes to youngsters on how to stay safe. The inspiration people must have drawn from meeting Ashe still resonates today and we can all learn from his kind heart.
So, the next time you want to use anger to deal with disappointment, just remember what Arthur Ashe would do.