We each have our own reasons for participating in a sport or supporting our children in their endeavors. Many athletes are revered because we all know the commitment that is required to excel.
When our youngest son decided he didn’t want to play travel ice hockey his senior year of high school, we were surprised and disappointed — felt kind of let down actually. Why did we feel this way? Were we too attached to the outcome because of the money “invested” for the past eight years? He’s the one playing hockey, not me or my husband.
You want what’s best for your child. You take pride in their accomplishments. It’s a hard thing to do, but you have to let go at some point. We’re glad he spoke up.
Participating in sports helps many who are in need too. It played an important role in my life. Sports really was a “place” for me to escape, something to occupy my time so I could avoid going home. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed it — but my parents were freshly divorced and my home life was up in the air.
My coaches were the ones who pushed me to do better. To be honest, I resented it on occasion at the time; which is normal for a rebellious teenager. Their influence was very positive and I’m grateful to this day.
I informally surveyed my two sons and a few of their friends about what they learned through their sports involvement: all male, ages 17–20 at the time, variety of sports (baseball, track, cross country, hockey, lacrosse). They all commented that many coaches and parents take it too serious sometimes. Hmmm. It was all encompassing…their lives revolved around practice and competition.
Bottom line — sports participation is supposed to be fun.
Here Are 6 Things They Learned
1. Sports involvement keeps them busy and out of trouble. There is a lot of social pressure out there. You will have less free time after school being involved with something. A sport teaches you trust, leadership, and a healthy lifestyle.
2. Sports offers a place to feel good overall. The adrenalin you experience feels good, especially during competition. You develop friendships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
3. Sports help when dealing with diversity. Being part of a team includes people from diverse backgrounds. You learn to work with those that are different than you. A diverse background helps to foster creativity and reduce stereotypes in relation to race, gender, culture and disabilities.
4. Sports teaches you respect. It’s important to know how to deal with others you don’t agree with. Coaches, other athletes and competitors, even yourself, are all-important.
5. Sports gives you confidence. Sports involvement can help develop your self-esteem. To compete is a way to discover your potential to do better, hold yourself to a higher standard, and to expect more of yourself — and deliver.
6. Sports teaches teamwork. Being part of a team teaches you how to rely on and work with others to accomplish a common goal. Setting aside your ego sometimes is easier said than done. Part of teamwork, more than anything else, is understanding what everyone’s role is.
The best sports experience for our youth should be about balance. Find programs that offer a blend of fun, learning and competition that best fits your child. Take an active interest. Be supportive.
Most important of all is to let your child explore sports on his or her own.
Originally published at www.hitchedmag.com.