But now for the flip side from someone whose kids play A LOT of sports. My kids are learning some crucial life lessons from their participation in sports and I couldn’t be more proud. There were so many, I really struggled narrowing my list from 15 or 20, but here are my top 5! (in no particular order)
1. Understanding commitment – My kids love playing sports, but there are days they really don’t want to go to practice. But they do…because they’ve made a commitment. They know their team is counting on them and they don’t want to let them down. It’s their responsibility to contact their coaches if they have to miss a practice or need to be late, just like it will be their responsibility once they get a job. Sports have taught them once you commit to something you follow through on that commitment because others are depending on you.
2. Overcoming obstacles and perseverance – Life is going to throw us obstacles at every turn. I certainly can’t prepare my kids for every one of them, but sports have taught them how to work through many. They’ve dealt with getting cut from teams, lower than hoped for playing time, difficult teammates, questionable coaching, bad calls from refs, injuries, unsportsmanlike behavior (teammates AND parents), and playing through illness. They are learning you get out of life what you put in it. Nothing is handed to you, you must earn it. And in order to earn it, you must never give up. Effort equals results.
3. Defining success – Sports are showing my kids there are many ways to define success. Of course, wins and losses are one way, but I’ve watched my kids come home disappointed after a great win because they were not pleased with their personal performance, or on the other hand, be ok with a loss because they knew they played their best. Success in life can be defined in many ways as well, but they are learning that doing your personal best, always equals a personal success.
4. Teamwork and a focus on what you can control – Sports provide an opportunity for kids to learn to take turns and cooperate with teammates to achieve goals…even teammates they don’t like. This holds true for the rest of your life. You are going to have to work with people you don’t like, but still get the job done. As kids learn their role on the court or field, this translates into the working world where you must understand your role within an organization in order to be most effective and efficient. In life and sports, there is a lot of uncertainty. You can control your attitude and effort, but you can’t control the refs, how your teammates are playing, or the coaches’ decisions. Sports are teaching them to stay focused on THEIR effort, not on the outcome and let go of what they can’t control. They make mistakes, but as athletes, they are learning to acknowledge their mistake, learn from it, then quickly brush it off and put it in the past so they can be mentally ready for the next game.
5. Everyone has something different to offer/respect – In team sports, it’s rare that one person can perform every task well. Different members of the team have different strengths and weaknesses. Sports are teaching them to appreciate these differences and the importance of respecting what all people contribute to a game. My kids have made friends with a diverse group of people they would have never had an opportunity to meet without sports in their life. They also are learning how to be humble winners and gracious losers…a skill that will take them far in life.
Many people have questioned my decision to allow my kids to participate in so many sports. They express concern for the limited amount of free time the kids have, the money and time we have spent on traveling on the weekends, and the lack of “family time” we have. But it has been, without a doubt, the right decision for our family. My kids stay naturally fit and healthy, they have stayed out of trouble (so far), and it’s something our family enjoys doing together. Games are a family affair with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Some of our best memories have been the four of us squeezed in a hotel room. And then, of course, all the above mentioned lessons they are learning. With all that said, I’m well aware that it’s their academics that will solidify their future and be the deciding factor on where they go to college. So I will continue to try and find a balance for both their academic and athletic achievements. I’ll still be the pacing mom up in the stands that can’t stand to watch when games get close and the pain-in-the butt mom checking their grades on the computer on a weekly basis. And I’ll continue to be extremely proud. Not only of their report card or their starting position on a team, but proud of the amazing human beings they both are…on AND off the court.