Confession: growing up I found team sports far too stressful to part take in. My anxious little self could only carry the burden of disappointing myself and possibly my parents. Therefore I steered clear of soccer, basketball, volleyball, and anything else that might make me mildly uncomfortable or stressed. What if I failed? What if I didn't make the team? Got benched? Botched the winning play? I'm breathing into a paper bag right now just thinking about the plethora of negative outcomes my young mind conjured up. To involve nine or 10 other girls and their hypothetical judgement of me was just too overwhelming for my not-so-naturally-athletic-self.
I dabbled in softball until it came time to try out for varsity. Faced with the possibility of not making the cut, I opted for quitting. I attempted swim team as a diver. I was pretty bad and so I quit that too. I didn't want to tell my mom that I'd abandoned the swimming ship, so my best friend and I would wet our hair and sit in the high school hallway for hours until pick-up time. She eventually discovered my ruse, because moms are no fools. Needless to say I was a fear-driven kid, only really attempting things I was confident I would succeed at.
Fast forward several decades and here I am raising a few die-hard athletes who are loving themselves some team sports. I'm so proud of them. They are fearless, social, encouraging, talented, and athletic, qualities that they most definitely inherited from their very sporty father. I watch them each week practice and play soccer with their team of like-minded girlies and I feel so grateful that they are reaping the benefits of playing team sports. They're able to do what I never could and put themselves out there in the world of sports. They win, lose, laugh, and cry. They take risks on the field and sometimes they don't pan out, but guess what? The girls rise above, learn, and try again.
Along with those risks and failures comes the success and pride of sticking with something and eventually seeing growth and progress. Here are six reasons you may want to consider letting your little sportie try out for basketball or soccer next year.
Effective communication skills are something that your child will need and use throughout his entire life. Playing team sports is a fantastic way of introducing and practicing communication skills, both spoken and unspoken. Team players need to constantly be appropriately communicating with the coaches as well as team members. They ask questions, synthesize information, and work together to set up and execute plays. When kids practice these skills across environments such as at school, on the court, and at home, the skills become routine and in turn are no longer something that the child has to consciously think about doing.
It's not always easy putting yourself out there in the sports world. I was one of those kids who was more than happy to be a wallflower when it came to recreational activities. However, playing on and competing with a team can give your kiddo the confidence she needs to go on and be successful in her future. Sticking with team sports can build your kid's confidence by allowing her not to fear failure. Sometime you win, sometimes you lose. That's life, get over it.
Team sports teach kids to focus on doing their best, not by being the best but being their best. Believe me there is a difference. Lastly, kids learn that practice does not make perfect, but it does make a difference. Practicing the sport's skills can help your child feel more confident in what she is learning and applying to her sport.
Remember back when you were growing up and adults were the ultimate bosses? Your side of the story didn't really matter. If the teacher called home, you were in for it. We respected the teachers, coaches, and adults in our lives without question.
I'm not sure where that went, but respect for authority is a fleeting quality of today's youth. Playing a team sport brings a bit of that important value back into our children's lives. Players have to respect what the coach says. They don't have to agree, but they need to swallow it down. If you talk back or throw shade at the coach, you might just earn a spot riding the pine for the rest of the game. I know it sounds a bit harsh, but I kind of love this. Maybe if my kids learn to follow directions and not to sass the coach, they will bring those awesome skills home with them!
Winning is a fantastic feeling; losing, not so much. Kids need to be able to feel both sides of the sporty fence appropriately and playing team sports gives kids plenty of practice at both. No one likes it when the winner of a game gets loud, too boastful, and braggy. Typically coaches will point this behavior out and help children to understand how to win and still feel empathy for the opponent.
The same can be said for losing. No one likes a sore loser and team sports help kids learn how to lose a game gracefully. Sure, kids will be sad and frustrated, but they won't be aggressive and throw tantrums on the soccer field. That behavior won't stand. Even if kids do try that jam, they will soon recognize that no one else is acting that way and adjust accordingly. Young athletes focus on what they did well, what they can improve on, and move forward as a team unit.
Playing a team sport goes far beyond boosting physical fitness and ability, it just might have a direct correlation to higher academic performance in some students. A recent study out of the University of Kansas looked the student performance of high schoolers who participated in team sports. 97 percent of those student athletes graduated high school. Student athletes had lower dropout rates, higher class attendance rates, and high assessment scores compared to their non-athletic counterparts. Finally the myth of the "dumb jock" can get flushed.
When kids are part of a team, they recognize that their teammates and coaches are counting on them to be there. Even if they feel like sitting at home and watching television or playing Barbies, the pull to please others can be very strong. This is a valuable skill in the real world of adulting. When you work with others you carry your weight. What a great way to introduce this concept to youngsters!
Lastly is my favorite team sports benefit: time management. I have four small kids and we need to have our butts in gear at all times or we will never get anywhere prepared and on time. My oldest daughter is now in fifth grade and, because of team sports, she is the time management queen! She gets her homework done, practices her instrument, dresses for soccer, and eats her meals all before it's time to leave for practice. Why? She loves soccer and she adores her team. Getting to practice is the thing she most looks forward to and she has figured out how to make that happen. No homework, no soccer. No eating dinner, no soccer. No chores, yep, you guessed it, no soccer.
The benefits of team sports for kids is limitless. They gain massive amounts of useful skills that they can apply to their education as well as their future endeavors. It might take some time dabbling in several recreational sports before your little one finds his or her "thing" but when it happens, it's so worth it!
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