You’ve probably been hearing for quite a while that youth sports build character, persistence, and teamwork. I’ve definitely seen its value in the lives of my own three kids, now all in their 20s. They are all facing challenges in their work and in relationships and I believe these lessons learned through sports helped prepare them.
They learn to work with difficult people.
In youth sports, my kids played for and with difficult coaches and teammates. Now, they have issues with co-workers or friends.
My son has dealt with a very hard employer who misjudged him and treated him harshly. His experiences with hard coaches helped him learn to ignore the negativity and “play his game”.
They learn to work under pressure.
My kindergarten teacher daughter has faced plenty of pressure from parents and administrators. As a high school and college softball catcher, she learned the importance of staying calm in stressful situations.
It’s hard on mom and dad to watch their kids play under stress, but that pressure is a breeding ground for growing the ability to stay calm when they grow up and life throws curve balls.
They learn to keep playing when it was hard.
In youth sports kids can learn to keep working towards a goal, even when it feels hopeless.
I see this in my daughter who is working hard to achieve a personal goal in her life. She has faced numerous setbacks, but she will not give up.
That type of persistence is only learned as one faces and works through challenges. She learned this as she fought for playing time in middle and high school basketball and for her coveted libero spot in high school volleyball.
They learn to ignore negativity.
There will always be negative voices in youth sports. We heard them when my husband coached, my kids played on losing teams, or when kids made mistakes.
If your kids learn to ignore the negative voices in sports, they will be ready to do the same in life.
They learn to understand the boss.
In youth sports, the “boss” is the coach. Sometimes those coaches were hard to read. We told our kids that their job was to strive to understand what the coach wanted and needed them to do, even if he wasn’t clear in his instruction. This endeavor to try to understand others before judging has and will continue to help them through many relational and workplace problems.
They learned to express themselves.
Let your child learn to speak for himself to the coach and avoid jumping in to fight his battles. I know that our kids have become confident communicators because we didn’t do their talking for them.
They learned to be patient with those who can’t keep up.
My kids always had at least one player on their team who struggled to keep up. As adults, my kids are able to give encouragement and compassion to co-workers, friends, or neighbors who can’t quite keep up in life. I have no doubt that they learned this partly in the youth sports arena.
They learned to respect the strengths of others.
The ability to appreciate the skills of others and support their talents makes for a great team player in the game, in the office, and in the home.
They learned to find worth in themselves, not in sports.
When integrity, honesty and hard work become the true measure of a champion and not just stats, trophies and accolades, then your kids will not base their self-esteem on performance–in the game or in life–but on who they know themselves to be on the inside.
I miss watching my kids play sports, but as I see them apply their sports lessons to the real world as adults, I feel like a proud mom watching from the stands all over again.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her latest book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.