Does Sport Build Character? A Progress Report on a Victorian Idea

Studies in Christian Ethics 25 (1):35-48 (2012)
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This paper discusses the Victorian idea that sport builds character, which was one of the inspirations for the modern Olympic movement and remains central to policy debates on sport. The argument is that sport, even in the highly moralised context of ‘muscular Christianity’, failed in this character-forming role, and should not be seen as a source of moral regeneration. The paper argues that the tendency to over-moralise sport, like the commercialisation of sport, has the effect of diminishing the ‘play element’. Recovering sport as play, it is argued, is essential to unlocking its potential to lift the spirit—if not to build character, as the muscular Christians believed



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