From films like “Remember the Titans” that portray the power of collaborating over steep odds and the power of friendship to conquer racial barriers to a film like “Riding Giants” that leaves the viewer amazed of pushing the envelope in big-wave surfing, there’s just something about sports that is exhilarating and inspiring. Whether you’ve been a team player, supported one, or worked hard to attain a personal athletic goal, it feels great to persistently work toward a desired end result.
From a young age, we usually get our kids parted of sports. Maybe it’s due to the fact that we enjoyed playing the same sports when we were little, or maybe we never played but our kids are showing interest and so we sign them up. No matter what the impetus behind it, there are several benefits that come from getting our youths involved with a sports team, and a couple of it has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with learning more about life.
In contrast, getting kids in the pool, out on the track, breathing in crisp air out on the football field for autumn practices, or on a court practicing drills and technique is a way to get kids moving. Not only does your body generally perform better if it is getting adequate exercise, it’s proven that it improves your overall health. And, beyond that, you’ll get your kids away from gaming, and instead, help facilitate opportunities for them to interact and engage with real people, real opponents, instead of folks that don’t exist except on a screen.
It cultivates belonging. It’s an innate need to belong, to identify with others, to make connections. Team sports are a great way to be part of something and belong, and this is preferable to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive tendencies that ultimately suck the life out of these kids we love so much. If you fill that need with something positive, they’ll be less inclined to go looking for, or get involved in, avenues that lead to trouble.
Sports are a great way to instill discipline. If you’re involved with a team, or are merely trying to break your own personal best record, it involves dedication and sacrifice. What will they come away having learned from all of this?
As a companion thought to that last factor, the discipline and dedication that is required ultimately helps them learn that effort is required to achieve goals. As Matt Biondi, an American Olympic swimmer (who won 11! medals) said, “Determination can change failure into incredible accomplishment.” Our kids have to learn that perseverance is required when you really want something, and this will apply all through their entire life, long after their days playing sports are over.
As a conclusion to the last two issues, there’s this: In today’s world, where we considerably hear the term “entitlement” and see its manifested behaviors surfacing in our youth, team sports are a good way for our young people to learn that you don’t always win, and things don’t just happen. It’s important to let our kids lose, to have to get up again, to have to really work for something. If our children go through life expecting that it is going to be something akin to perpetual success, sunny skies and cake with sugared frosting on top, they’re going to fall hard when the struggles that come to every life come to them.
As Mary Lou Retton, an Olympic gymnast, pointed out: “A trophy carries dust. Memories last for life.” Maybe that’s what it’s all about, by the end of the day: providing experiences where your kid can get to know life lessons and have memories that will uphold them over their lives. When life gets complicated, maybe they’ll return to a time when their coach shared something purposeful with them during a particularly difficult practice. Or maybe, years down the road, when an old familiar song begins, they’ll be taken back to traveling in a motorcoach to the state championships, and they’ll fondly recall the strength of those companionships and the laughter and jokes that were shared. The advantages of sports aren’t held hostage in that one moment or time; they’re continued a lifetime, laying a foundation for everything that follows.