Every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Responsible parents should realize this and accept the challenge to help their youngsters find success through proper nutrition, choosing what sports to play, and by teaching the value of good decisions regarding friendships. Research has shown that one of the most powerful tools a parent can leverage is the power of sports.
Sports provide much more than the obvious physical benefits. Young athletes look and feel fitter than their peers who don’t participate and they gain practical tools to help them develop psychological and physical habits that will carry on throughout their lives. The lessons learned through various sports programs not only benefit them now in childhood but will contribute to healthy habits that will influence them for years to come. Discipline taught in sports cannot be learned in a book or in a classroom. As parents and guardians work alongside coaches, athletes learn to apply these lessons in every walk of life.
Let’s look at some of the powerful benefits received through sports. Students who play sports can have higher self-esteem, greater awareness of their skills and increased desire to be successful in school. Kendal Gammon, an NFL Player for 15 years, and author of Life’s a SNAP, knows some students need additional motivation to make the honor roll. He says, “There’s nothing wrong with dangling the carrot of sports in front of a kid to get them to take seriously their academic work.” He adds, “It’s also important to give them opportunities to enhance their areas of interest. We need to teach our children the value of learning things that will have the long life, activities that will last when age limits activity.” I could not agree with Gammon more. Because of sports, I received a college education and ultimately, my degree, because I had to maintain my academics to play sports. Gammon adds, “Sports have become more than a road to college; they teach a good work ethic, how to accept authority and how to be accountable for one’s actions.” There is no better place than sports to learn these priceless lessons!
The psychological effects of youth sports are numerous. Sports can be the most powerful influence on the development of your child’s character. Qualities like honesty, organization, commitment, decisiveness, motivation, discipline, and persistence are all developed in the arena of sports. Add to that goal-orientation, manners, gratitude, pride, diligence, loyalty, respect, courage, confidence, humility, and self-control and it’s obvious how powerful the game can become in childhood development.
How can sports develop these qualities in your child? Every situation in sports can be a learning experience. If the coach decides to cut your child from the team, this becomes an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson in persistence, diligence, courage, even how to be supportive. An example of encouragement might be, “If you desire to make the team next year, I will help you get organized, set some goals, learn self-control and commit to working hard toward achieving the goal.” On the other hand, you can choose to say, “Son, the coach doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Now you’re teaching disrespect of authority, or “we will show him the mistake he has made” bitterness. There are two ways to use sports in developing your child’s mental ability to cope with life. One is a positive, hard working mentality, while the other becomes a negative pity-party mentality where whining reveals a poor attitude in accepting authority.
Unfortunately, there are some poor coaches out there and you may not figure this out until the season has started, games are under way and your child has made friends on the team. Once you discover the coach may not be the best, seldom is there anything you can do until the season is over. During that season, you have a tremendous opportunity to teach your child a valuable lesson of how to handle difficult people and situations in life. Most adults have a story about a supervisor that was difficult to work with. Let’s face facts; working with difficult people is an essential life skill. Your child can learn this skill while playing sports.
How can we confront a difficult person and work through a conflict to ultimately reach a positive resolution? Don’t sell your home, change schools, all to avoid the situation. Instead, go with your child and talk with the coach asking why the offending situation occurred and listen with an open mind.
Every coach, even myself, becomes defensive when authority is questioned. A coach may not say it, but he’s thinking, “Just who do you think you are, talking to me like that?” Most athletes find themselves in the proverbial doghouse for the rest of the year after a confrontation like that. However, if a child comes with a humble attitude and asks what can he do to get more playing time, most coaches are more than willing to have that discussion with him. Parents must set the ground work for how to communicate with someone who is in a position of authority. Remember, we’re learning the power of sports. Don’t assume you know the reason why your child is not getting the playing time or position he wants. Once again, it is critical for parents to set the example of how to handle difficult and unfavorable situations. Your children are going to be facing tough situations for the rest of their lives. You want to be the one preparing them to approach these situations positively and achieve success as the final result.
Coach John Wooden in his book, Wooden – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, said “I think parenting, coaching or teaching are the same thing. And they are the two most important professions in the world. Parents are coaches, the first coach a child has. Too many parents expect the coaches and teachers at school to do what they are not doing at home. The parents must set the foundation early. It is often too late by the time a child goes to school.” The truth of the matter remains: the arena of sports will provide powerful life lessons to develop your child into the man or woman you desire them to be. My hope is that you, as parents, will consider the powerhouse of sports to teach life lessons to your child. It can be a most rewarding journey for both you and your child.