Sports has been one of the greatest teachers in my life. Many of the skills and habits that I have developed and appreciate today, have come from the sports I have played throughout my life. As I have progressed through high school and university, I have become aware of an increase in the drop out rate of young athletes before the age of 13. This is troubling to me, as I have experienced first hand, the wonderful things that sports can do for your life. The focus for many parents and youth sport organizations has shifted into trying to create the next superstar. They push kids extremely hard from an early age and put the emphasis on immediate performance over long term development. This development includes both athletic ability and personal growth. There needs to be a focus on the intangible aspects of sports that are often overlooked. These aspects include; commitment, resilience, coachability, teamwork, leadership, a sense of self worth, and social skills.
Participating in a sport is no small under taking. It requires time and continuous effort over the course of a long season, and this builds the ability to commit to a project until the task is complete. Dedication is a key ingredient for success and is one of the most important skills that a child can learn. It will serve them extremely well throughout their educational and professional lives and through playing sports, they can master it while still having fun.
There are always bumps in the road of life, no matter what path you take. In sport you must deal with things like injuries, bad weather and broken equipment, but having resiliency will allow you to keep moving forward. Not giving up when things do not go as planned builds good habits for future endeavors, because athletes don’t get discouraged when things get tough.
The ability to take criticism and learn from instruction are critical to success in all areas of life. Being coachable is an underrated quality in an individual and the ability to take feedback and use it to better themselves is something athletes excel at. Sports offer the ability to teach this skill and prepare kids for their future career both academic and professional.
Nothing teaches someone how to work with others toward a common goal like participating in a team sport. Months of endless hours of training and competition teaches you to be both a leader and follower depending on what the situation calls for. It requires you to be able to dedicate yourself each day to a specific task, while still maintaining a vision of the end goal. You must commit yourself to your role and support your teammates because the only way to achieve consistent success is to work together like a well-oiled machine year after year. Being a good teammate is the foundation to becoming a good co-worker which is always a sought after quality.
Being a leader can take on many forms and playing sports enables you to develop different styles of leadership through practical experience. Through many years of playing sports, I have witnessed many amazing leaders. Some have had an extreme in your face and vocal style, while others were more reserved and preferred to lead with their actions. Both styles were effective and had a place over the course of the season and I believe it is important to learn how to do both.
6. Sense of Self-Worth and Social Skills:
Sports gives you something to belong to. It is an opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself and gives you something to be proud of in an era when self esteem issues are all too prevalent. It also offers an excellent opportunity to make life long friends. I have been a part of multiple different sports teams and keep in touch with many of my former teammates. Going through training, practices, winning and losing, and overcoming obstacles as a team leads to bonds that stand the test of time and generate some of the most genuine friendships.
In my opinion sports are just as important as education when it comes to moulding someone into the person they will be when they grow up. Keeping kids in sports as long as possible needs to be a priority because without it, they are missing out on a valuable development tool. Playing sports is about so much more than just developing athletic ability. It is a teacher of life skills, a way to make lifelong friends, and allows you to feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself.