My daughter is a creative-type person. She always has been and will spend hours quietly coloring, crafting and doing just about anything that involves markers and imagination. So, I was shocked when she walked onto the soccer field last fall and changed into this fearless little thing that was an aggressive team player and could get the ball into the net with ease.
She loved it out there and I loved watching this side of her personality emerge. As it turns out, she hates losing and is incredibly completive. She gives it her all on that field and keeps getting better as time goes by.
This spring we moved from a park district team to a more competitive league and it’s been a joy to watch her grow through practices and games. This one decision has been so beneficial for her and so healthy for her in so many ways.
I was also a creative-type person growing up and I didn’t participate in sports until high school. It made me wonder how different I would have been if I had the experience of playing competitively and learning a sport young.
It also made me reflect on all the life benefits that kids’ sports can help provide and studies suggest that sports can have a big impact on child’s psychological and social well-being.
Here’s a few of the benefits you may see if you get your child involved in organized sports.
Learning to play by the rules
Organized sports are so fundamental when teaching kids basic rules and fairplay. Sure my husband and daughter can have fun kicking the soccer ball around in in the backyard, but when she gains an understanding of the rules – and sticks to them – then she’s really learning to play the game. It translates into the game of life too.
Respecting the coach & developing a healthy relationship
Don’t underestimate the role of a coach in your child’s life. A coach teaches your children to respect the authority of other adults outside your home in an environment that’s safe and, ideally, supportive and somewhat nurturing.
As your child grows this relationship might become even more important. In fact, a recent study concluded that coaches have more of an impact on young athletes than their parents, peers, teachers, school and religion. As a high school athlete, I can tell you this was very true for me.
Provides regular exercise
Getting regular exercise through soccer is imperative for my daughter. As I said she will spend hours coloring so her sport allows her to be much more active than she would be on a regular basis. She has practice once a week and a game once a week which means there are at least two days where I know she will be running and getting crucial exercise.
For most sports there will be additional exercise that goes into training for the activity that will be invaluable too. For instance, my daughter will end up running a lot more because she is in soccer. As a cheerleader in high school, I participated in weights to help build muscles that would be useful lifting other people. People who play basketball, rugby and football will do sprints and lift weights too.
Working as a team
Sports may be one of the first opportunities children have to work as a team. Before school projects, presentations and jobs, sports will provide the basic but fundamental skill of working with others to accomplish a task.
I saw this skill on display this weekend when my daughter took the ball from mid-field and close to the goal. She couldn’t make the shot, so she kicked it to a teammate who was in front of the goal and they scored together. To realize what was happening was really a great moment for me to witness as a parent.
Dealing with difficult people
Working as a team often means working with difficult people. In sports you sometimes have people who don’t play fair, shove and push and even coaches that don’t teach kids sportsman-like behavior.
We’ve already run into this so we (my daughter and I) are both learning how to deal with these people and either confront them in a positive way or work around them.
Making new friends
My daughter started a new school when she began kindergarten and has a great group of friends at school. However, sports can give children a network of friends outside their school. As they grow this can be valuable as school friendships grow and change.
Additionally, these new friends from soccer are still in our school district so they will end up in middle school and high school together some day.
Performing under pressure
Children have a lot of pressure in their lives nowadays. Standardized tests in school, over scheduling of activities and heavier and heavier homework loads are all realities they have to deal with as they grow up.
Playing sports can help them understand how to perform when the pressure is on and shows them that with practice they’ll be able to work through any obstacle.
Greater academic success
Studies have supported the idea that kids who participate in sports often do better in school. Physical activity is linked to enhanced brain and cognitive function due to increased blood flow to the brain, increased levels of endorphins and more. Besides that, regular participation in sports may improve kids’ behavior in school allowing them to have better concentration.
Sports also shows kids that if they work hard, they can achieve the desired results. This can translate into school projects, studying, team projects and more.
Sticking with something
Sometimes it’s difficult for kids stick with things in life and if they truly don’t enjoy something then they shouldn’t be doing it. However, sports can help your child learn how to work towards a goal and teach persistence.
Learning certain skills like how to turn a ball around in soccer or how to throw a curve ball in baseball are skills, among thousands of others, that don’t always come easily. Learning the nuances of these skills, even when they’re difficult, can help children see that if you continue to try, you will succeed.
Learning how to lose
Losing is never easy, but sports teach children how to evaluate the loss and how to change behavior for a better outcome next time. Losing helps children learn practice, persistence and patience as they work to achieve a win.
Learning how to win
It’s important to know how to lose, but it’s also important to know how to win. Celebrating is fun, vital and deserved, but bragging or winning by playing fast and loose with the rules is not the way to do it. We’ve experienced bad winners and kids who win by pushing tripping and always knocking the ball out.
Most coaches I’ve met teach kids to win well. Whether it’s giving high fives to the other team at the end of the game or shaking hands and thanking the losing team for the game can make a big difference in the world of sportsmanship.When kids learn how to win well they learn not to tear the losing team down. Additionally, it also teaches compassion, which is a something the whole world can use a bit more of these days.
Hard work, honesty, integrity and persistence will become the true measure of a winner in sports. A pat on the back or a high five from a team can make all the difference in letting kids know they did well – whether they win or lose. They will learn that all their actions are valuable and that their contributions make a difference. These ideas will help them to value and believe in themselves, building confidence for their entire lives.
Does your child play sports? If so how have you seen it benefiting them?