As the school year begins to come to an end, and spring sports along with it, my boys are in the midst of signing up for sports camps, and summer sports practices.
While some may say that’s a bit much, I say its the right amount. I believe you should have your children in some type of organized event, it has many benefits, but even if sports are not their thing they should be part of something that teaches them to win and lose gracefully, to understand that we have to work hard for something and at times we don’t always win.
Most kids now a day hit technology as soon as they get home, whether it’s their mobile phone, gaming console, or computer. This has become standard in our children’s culture, and I’ve come to accept it (mostly), but I also do force detox in our home as well, (see my post on Digital Detox for both adults and Kids) and sports are just one of the things I recommend.
To be clear I don’t force the children to play sports full time all year, that is their choice, but I do enforce a rule that they must play a sport of their choice for two seasons. That doesn’t mean that they have to play the same sport twice; it just means they have to choose two sports to play each year.
DAD TIP: While they are young I choose the sports for them, and we tried just about all of them to see what they did the best at. I have the two season a year rule, so I know they are socializing, spending time outside, and getting in a bit of exercise of balance the amount of time they have on electronics now a day.
So with that said you might be asking why should I have my child play sports? Well, let me give you some good reasons.
As I stated earlier learning to win and lose is a big part of sports. As our children get older, they are going to have to understand not everything will go their way.
Luckily with sports, our kids won’t win every game they play. They will have to understand what obstacles are in front of them and learn how to overcome them. At a young age (think micro soccer or football), that obstacle will be as small, such as learning to dribble a soccer ball or correctly holding a football, but as they get older, the obstacles will be much more difficult.
With the mindset sports present (practice makes you better) it will translate to other more essential things in life, and that when you lose there is always a way to get back up and move forward.
Along with being resilient, our children are taught to become great sportsmen (and women). It teaches our children to keep a positive attitude towards our opponents, coaches, parents, and refs. This is one is a big one for me; learning how to accept losing without throwing a fit, or making excuses is something that needs to be taught at a young age.
DAD TIP: Also as a parent when they win, ensure they do it without boasting all over the place, just because they won or were better at the time doesn’t give them the right to throw it in everyone’s face, in other words, be humble. Also, just because you won the first time doesn’t mean you will the second.
Teamwork is critical, especially as we get older. Whether it’s something we are doing at school or it is a project we are collaborating on at work. Sports effectively start teaching our children at a young age to work together with a group of individuals to obtain a common goal. Each game teaches something different, but working together is vital in each of them. For example in football, you “communicate” with your Quarterback or defensive caller to know your position, the play, and “trust” that when the play starts everyone will do their part. In wrestling its a little different, as a teammate, you work with your team members and be great practice partners to ensure you are both getting better.
Honestly, teamwork is a skill that will help to drive your career and make you successful. Working with others is essential to everyday life, even if you don’t care for them.
DAD TIP: Whatever you do don’t let them quit the sport, or anything for that matter once they have committed to it unless it’s genuinely a harming them emotionally or physically. This is crucial when they are very young; we always told our children when you commit to something you finish it. This is probably why our oldest was in shock when he said he didn’t want to try out for a sport in high school because he was not sure if he was going to like it, at which point my wife and I told him to try it for a few weeks. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to continue. He was confused. We explained to him now that you are older there are choices you are going to make you may not be happy with. You have the option to continue or to stop, but we wanted you to understand growing up that when you commit to something it is not something you should do without giving your all and understanding others are counting on you.
As I previously said, kids today focus a lot on technology. Sports can help break them free from the devices, and while doing so, they get to be with children their age, and generally within your surrounding area, which may and usually does allow them to make a few personal friends.
Since they are all within the same age group and area, they will tend to have more commonalities with each other, which will provide the environment to connect with other children.
As a parent, I talk to my children about mental toughness all the time. This is something I learned through wrestling, and something my older children have learned and something my younger children are learning. What is mental toughness? It’s about digging deep, even when you don’t think you have anything left, it’s about knowing that when you are physically exhausted and want to give up, that you can still give more.
In sports, you have to be willing to put yourself in this situation, knowing that at times you are going to feel as if you can’t go any longer. As adults we don’t always get into situations where we need this, but when we do, and we probably will its something that can get you through anything.
DAD TIP: A wise man once told me, the mind tires before the body, if you think you can or you think you can’t you are probably right.
When To Lead & Follow
In life, we can’t always be leaders, even when we want to and think we need to, and the same thing happens in sports. Sports teach us that we can’t be leaders all the time, and sometimes we need to follow. Sure, you could be the number one goal scorer on your team, but today your playing against an opponent that knows, and this is when you have to drop back and let your other team members take over. It’s okay to follow, you might learn something, and in my personal opinion, at times it’s better to be the follower. You don’t always need to be the best or smartest person in the room if you were how could you ever learn? Be a leader when required but sit back and take it in when it is not.
DAD TIP: It’s incredibly important to be sure you do not put your children down for their performances after a win or loss; sports are not the most important thing in life. Criticism is, but no one can handle it consistently even the toughest of people. As a rule of thumb, when I do it, I lead with the criticism and end on something positive.
Of all the things I’ve learned now that I have a 15-year-old, is that you can’t push your child, nor did I. He started out playing baseball, football, and soccer, now he does cross country and wrestling.
When he started he didn’t care enough to do them year-round; he was 5 when he began. When he got to high school, he decided he wanted to wrestle year round and attend camps. I attribute this to all of the benefits of sports, and he understands that if he wants to be at the top, that he has to commit to doing what it takes to get what he wants.
My Son and I have spoken at lengths about his sports goals, and he knows he might not reach his end goal, but since he wants to be one of the top three wrestlers in the state, he knows that he will have to work harder than anyone else.
DAD TIP: I want to make the point that I talk about the importance of sports here, but I also want to state that we talk at lengths about our children’s academic performance as well, to be clear academics are leaps and bounds above sports.
I believe his experience in sports have set him up for success in life. He has a firm understanding that if he wants something in life that he has to use all of these tools. Now, I am not saying that sports are required for any of this, parenting is a significant part of it as well, and you can do all of this without sports as well, but I think it helps tremendously.