There is a lot to be learned from watching sports. Given the vast number of hours, days, and years devoted to the pastime, one would certainly hope so. Equally, one would hope there are benefits to playing sports besides racking up stats that one can endlessly debate.
These lessons are even more valuable for kids in their formative years. A lot of good can be accomplished through sports. But so can a lot of harm. Physical safety is the primary concern. Every piece of sports equipment has a safety component. That goes for baseball socks which help prevent blisters and scrapes when sliding, to football jerseys designed to fit over pads.
So before a child even gets to trot out onto the practice field, there is already strong messaging that safety comes first. Here are five other important sports lessons:
1. Life Is Dangerous
It is not enough to counsel safety first. Children and young adults have a false sense of invulnerability. Keeping your child safe is not exactly the same thing as keeping them sheltered from danger. When playing sports, you may get injured so it’s important that kids are taught about danger and risk. They have to know about possible injuries and how to avoid them.
There is a difference between stopping your child from climbing a tree, and teaching them how to climb a tree the right way. Children are going to fall. The first lesson in martial arts training is how to fall. Kids that don’t know how to fall break bones. Kids who are properly prepared for life’s dangers are more prepared to avoid them.
2. It Is Most Definitely How You Play the Game
Sports without rules is just a brawl. Cheating might get you the win if you are not caught. But it is not a win worthy of pride. You were not playing the same game as everyone else. Therefore, you did not win. You simply stole victory from its rightful owner. How you played the game determines whether you actually played the game at all.
Cheating also robs you of the opportunity to truly measure yourself against a worthy opponent. When you cheat, you will never know what you were capable of, or if you are really the best. Once you intentionally step outside the rules, you gain nothing useful from the activity. Sports are defined by rules. That is also a powerful lesson for life.
3. Play Until the Whistle Blows
Quitters never win. This is true in every aspect of life. It is a lesson best learned early. No one ever fulfills a dream they gave up on. Stopping when things get difficult results in failure because everything gets difficult at some point.
In sports, you don’t give up on a play while the clock is running. Getting beaten by a stronger opponent for the first 30 minutes does not mean that you can’t win in the last 5 minutes. You play until the whistle blows and take nothing with you. Leave it all on the field.
4. Know When to Turn It Off
Kids are full of unbridled energy. They don’t seem to have an off button. But sports can help them to learn how to turn it off when the game is over. They can’t take that energy into class, or back home, or in other situations where such energy would be inappropriate.
There is also that time when the season is over. It is a reminder that life goes on after sports. You have to have another plan. Even at the professional level, you are going to need to be prepared to do something else after your 3 to 5 year career.
5. It Is All About the Team
As social creatures, it cannot be every person for themselves. We have to play for the benefit of the team. Scoring the most points in a losing effort does not benefit anyone. Sometimes, a good assist is more important.
Besides the physical fitness, kids can learn a lot from sports. Those lessons include learning to deal with life’s dangers, playing by the rules, not giving up, finding the off switch, and playing for the team above self.