You probably already know the answer to that question. We've been hearing for years that youth sports build character, persistence and teamwork. I'd like to get a bit deeper and explain nine very specific reasons why I am glad my three 20-something kids played sports from preschool through college.
Today, as I see them react to challenges in their workplaces and in relationships, I am very grateful for these lessons they learned through competition:
1. Dealing with difficult people.
In youth sports, it was difficult coaches and teammates. In the real world, it's coworkers
or neighbors or even in-laws.
My son has dealt with coworkers who remind him of arrogant high school teammates. His sports experiences gave him the ability to see past the annoying behavior and seek to understand.
2. Doing a job under pressure.
Recently, when my son faced pressure at his job, I knew he would stay calm. As a high school and college quarterback, he led his team and it was imperative he stay calm under pressure.
It's hard on Mom and Dad to watch their kids play under stress, but that pressure is a breeding ground for growing the ability to stay calm when they grow up and life throws them curve balls.
3. Sticking with a hard task.
In youth sports, your child can learn to keep working towards a goal, even when it feels hopeless. I see this daily in my daughter, who is working hard to achieve a personal goal in her life. She has faced numerous setbacks, but she will not give up.
That type of persistence is only learned as one faces and works through challenges. She learned this as she fought for playing time in middle and high school basketball and for her coveted libero spot in high school volleyball.
4. Ignoring Doubters.
There will always be naysayers and haters. We heard them when my husband coached or my kids played on losing teams. We heard them when kids made mistakes and parents struggled to believe in their abilities. Our kids heard them from teammates who second-guessed each other.
If your kids learn to ignore the negative voices in sports, they will be ready to do the same in life.
5. Understanding the Boss (i.e. Coach)
My kids had coaches who were difficult to read. The admonition of seeking to understand was preached over and over in our home and our kids are still practicing it today.
We told them their job was to strive to understand what the coach wanted and needed them to do, even if he wasn't clear in his instruction. This endeavor to try to understand others before judging will help them through many relational and workplace problems.
6. Expressing needs and wants.
When you insist that your child confront the coach himself instead of jumping in to do battle for him, he learns to express concerns to a person of authority. I see how our kids have become confident communicators because we didn't do their talking for them.
7. Exercising patience with people who can't keep up.
There was always a player who needed help on my kids' teams, someone who struggled to keep up. As adults, my kids are able to give encouragement and compassion to coworkers, friends, or neighbors who can't quite keep up in life. I have no doubt that they learned this partly in the youth sports arena.
8. Respecting and benefitting from the strengths of others.
The ability to appreciate the skills of others and support their talents makes for a great team player, in the game, in the office, in the home.
9. Finding Worth.
Your child can learn that he is defined by who he is, not by what he does.
When integrity, honesty and hard work become the true measure of a champion, and not just stats, trophies and accolades, then your kids will not base their self-esteem on performance -- in the game or in life -- but on who they know themselves to be on the inside.
I miss watching my kids play sports. Even watching my daughter coach softball is just not the same. But as I see them apply their sports lessons to the real world as adults, I feel like a proud mom watching from the stands all over again.
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