Sports: The Ultimate Teacher 

Graeme

by Graeme Lovatt
Youth Services Coordinator

In an era where young people are more likely to pick up an electronic device than pick up a baseball, it has become more important that ever to reinforce the importance of team sports to children.

Everybody knows the physical benefits of playing sports; healthier bodies, decreased likelihood of obesity, and increased stamina. What many people fail to realize, however, is the immense positive impact sports can have on children – mentally and socially.

According to sports psychology author Jim Taylor, Ph.D., “Endurance sports have been found to enhance brain development and raise IQ.”

Additionally, Dr. Taylor says “Kids learn essential life skills, such as hard work, patience, persistence, and how to respond positively to setbacks and failure.”

hockeyThese sentiments resonate with me, personally. Being an overweight child, I struggled with confidence, not only in sports but in school, with friends and with life in general. Making the choice to start playing sports helped mould me into the person I am today. Immediately after I started playing baseball and basketball on a regular basis, I began losing weight, while slowly building up my confidence. This new positive energy made me comfortable enough to start engaging in conversations with my classmates and teachers, which directly led to paying attention more often, which inevitably led to better grades. Sports didn’t make me smarter, but they gave me a higher level of understanding;

“It’s not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

-Paul “Bear” Bryant

Once children enter the world of team sports, their social skills are immediately put to the test. Players on recreational teams are required to communicate effectively to achieve a singular goal, shared by all members of the team, regardless of position or skill level – victory.

gym timeIf victory is not achieved, players have the opportunity to prepare themselves for better results next time. These players, who I remind you, are still children, get to communicate first hand with the people who will be there with them throughout their trials and tribulations – their team mates. Fellow children.

Kids talking to kids about sports.

Kids that are more likely to maintain friendships because of their shared pursuit of a goal that may or may not ever have been achieved.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

-Michael Jordan

Team sports have the truly unique ability to transform quiet, soft-spoken kids into peer leaders, loud mouth bullies into team players and adults into role models. With caring adults who are dedicated to emphasizing the importance of recreation, and not chasing an unrealistic dream, kids can truly become successful at nearly anything they can imagine.

Sports teaches kids something parents and teachers alike struggle to instil in our young people – the importance of hard work. Before the puck drops, there is plenty of practice, commitment, responsibility and team work that must take place. Hours upon hours are invested in an environment where everybody should look to outwork the person next to them. Good coaches will prepare you, physically, for what lies ahead. Great coaches will prepare you for what lies aheadbasketball by equally training your mind and your body. They will teach you skills that will enable you to outperform players who may seem to have physical advantages. They will persist with the belief that practice makes perfect, even if they know perfection in sports is unattainable.

“The only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.”

– Ernie Banks

No matter how great an athlete is, at some point in their lives they will taste defeat. Kids who play team sports learn a very tough life lesson early on; you can’t win ’em all. What sports also teach kids is that life goes on. You’ll live to fight another day. There is still hope for tomorrow.

This life lesson comes with another benefit, too. It gives kids the vision to see that there’s no such thing as somebody else’s fault when it comes to team sports. You are a unit. Where one fails, the others compensate. If that doesn’t happen, team failure is guaranteed.

Anybody can have a great outlook on life from the winners circle, but how you react from outside of the circle is a true measure of character. Accepting failure as something that can and will happen from time to time is the first step in learning how to not only cope with it, but to experience it less frequently.

On the flip side, how you carry yourself during victory says a lot about your character away from the playing field. Kids who are taught humility and respect for your opponent are going to become the adults we want teaching the next generation.

volleyballSports have been around much longer than any living person, and will remain a fixture of our society. That is something that I am thankful for. Without sports, I can’t even imagine what kids and teenagers lives would be like. Where would they go? What would they do? Why would they do it?

goalieStriving to earn a spot on their school teams offers healthy competition among peers. Maintaining good grades to be academically eligible becomes a top priority. The possibility of not making the team makes kids work harder to improve their skills. Knowing that elevated knowledge of the game can increase one’s physical performance makes kids become students of the game. Studying plays, strategies and scenarios often carries over into study habits for school work, which typically translates into better grades. Being held responsible and accountable by an entire team motivates kids to buy into the concept of teamwork. Sharing all of these things with numerous people, their peers, makes everything fair and creates a support system. You are not alone in this marathon.

Opportunities within team sports are not present solely for the players on these teams. Many young people have grown into adults who have become successful professionals in many different avenues related to sports. Referees, coaches, statisticians, trainers, broadcasters and scouts. All of these people share at least one thing; the love of sports. A passion that has been inside heir hearts for many, many years and has propelled them into the position they are in now. The prospect of being paid to play professional sports is a great aspiration, but not making it to the Big Leagues does not mean the dream is over. Kids who have been coached correctly will be able to take the skills and knowledge they were taught and offer the same support to the next generation of athletes.

Fun is the absolute bottom line.

If something is physically active, mentally stimulating, creates life long friendships, isn’t hurting anybody and just happens to be fun, that sounds like the most perfect hobby I could ever dream of!

Sports are a wonderful thing.

The Ultimate Teacher.

“You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Wayne Gretzky

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