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Perhaps you’ve heard over and over about the life skills that playing sports will teach your child. I believe very strongly that it offers a golden opportunity for parents and coaches to help develop tomorrow’s leaders.
After being a sports mom for 21 years, my kids are now 29, 26, and 23. They played sports from 3-4 years old through college. There’s no doubt that sports took up a lot of their time, (our) money, and energy, but all that could have been wasted if we hadn’t tried to focus on using their experiences to grow them into strong adults.
Even though we were by no means perfect sports parents, (watch this video to see MY mistakes!) we did our best to make a valuable Return on Investment for the years our family devoted to youth sports. And the result? Our three kids have life skills that they learned through years of competition. And today those skills, while not necessarily perfect, are being honed and made even stronger.
Here are 3 Important Life Skills that Playing Sports will Teach Your Child
Life Skill #1: Courage
Courage is a life skill that shows itself in many ways. In youth sports, it can mean: standing up to bullies, trying out for a new team, or experimenting with playing an unfamiliar player position.
I saw my kids grow their courage many times as they played sports. Sometimes it came after tears and discouragement. In fact it usually comes through a hardship; you see, courage cannot grow in a vacuum. It only grows when difficulties push it to the surface. Each time your child faces challenges and pushes through, her courage grows a little stronger.
I saw the courage muscles exercised very strongly when my 26-year-old son moved from Florida to Oregon a couple of weeks ago. He’d lived in the same city as us for 3 years after college and decided it was time for him to venture out and spread his wings. He followed his heart and God’s leading and left everything familiar behind.
At first, I was very unhappy–and truth be told, it still sucks because I miss him–but then it dawned on me that this move was a huge test of his courage. He was leaving everything comfortable, safe, and familiar, and I knew it was not an easy step for him to take. I was immensely proud of his courage and I know that the seeds of that bravery were planted and nourished through his sports experiences.
Life Skill #2 Commitment
As your child learns to be part of a team, she understands that she depends on her teammates and her teammates depend on her. She knows that, whether or not she feels like it, she’s got to show up and play her best. That’s commitment, sticking with something even when you don’t feel like it.
Don’t let your children get into the habit of giving up. Encourage them to see things through. That endurance and is a characteristic they will need in marriage, in parenting, and in their jobs.
I’ve seen this very clearly in my youngest daughter. At 23, she’s taken up crossfit and has pushed herself–through discouragement, through early morning workouts, through failures–to stay committed. The result is that she is now a certified level 1 crossfit coach and competes in crossfit competitions. The commitment she shows in her work ethic is amazing and I know that staying power will affect other parts of her life as well.
Commitments that were rather insignificant when she was little and playing sports were actually kernels of fortitude that were watered and as a result, grew very strong. I have no doubt they will continue to grow.
Life Skill #3: Communication
One of the tools your child will need as she develops and maintains healthy relationships in life is good communication. It’s easy for parents to get impatient and put words in their kids’ mouths. You want to take on their battles–with the coach, with a teammate, with a sibling–but speaking for them robs them of the chance to learn the valuable skill of communicating properly.
Your child does not need you to interpret everything she says. Let her carry the conversation without you jumping in to clarify. It’s such a parental instinct, I know, to want to do that. I’m a person of words and it sometimes took real personal discipline to not interject myself into my child’s conversations because it was not being said the way I thought it should.
My oldest daughter uses good communication on a daily basis in her job as lead teacher over 8 kindergarten classes, and in her new role as a wife. Of course she learned a lot about communication in our family because we lived that strongly, but I do believe that sports reinforced that skill as she learned how to relate to coaches and teammates.
Here’s the deal: Everyone can talk, but not everyone knows how to communicate clearly and consistently. And the best way for your child to learn that is to gently guide her in sparingly appropriate times without always correcting her or stepping in to speak for her. Sometimes, you just have to let her stumble through it on her own and learn as she goes.
If all the money and time you spend on youth sports yields these three life skills in your child, your investment was a profitable one, and one that will return rewards for you and your child for life.
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