As a kid, I signed up for all of the activities I could get my hands on including the club soccer team, the high school orchestra, the church choir, the language competitions, the piano lessons, and the school track team. Now that I’m a mom with three kids in sports and activities, I’m realizing what a sacrifice my parents made for me. Standing in the throes of overlapping schedules, carpooling, coaching, and late-night meal making, I’m having to put names to the reasons why we chose this for our family.
When I put activities into perspective, I realize that kids are learning so much more than athletic, musical, or academic skills, and these are my top 5 reasons to encourage commitment in kids sports:
Number 1: They are learning the value of teamwork
We’ve all heard the adage, “There is no “I” in team” and while it can sound very cliché to us adults, this is a meaningful phrase to teach to our kids. As they grow up, our children will have to be able to handle working with peers on school and work projects. Learning this as a child will gear them up for future success in the workforce. Making sure our kids show up for practice teaches them to be a reliable and supportive teammate. In our home, we also expect siblings to show up as fans for each other’s games, teaching a different style of teamwork.
Number 2: They are learning to not quit
It’s discouraging when your kids are on a team that just can’t seem to win. As the parent you have driven them to every practice, you have done drills with them at home, and still every week you leave the fields just as disappointed as your child. But through all of this discouragement your child is learning. They are learning to keep showing up. They are learning how to lose gracefully and with a good attitude. They are learning how to not quit when things get tough. In our home we say a little phrase when we need encouragement, “We are Smiths, and we can do hard things.” Your children will go through a myriad of “hard” things in life, so teaching them how to handle disappointment is a life skill.
Number 3: They are learning how to accomplish goals
If your child is on a sports team or in an extracurricular activity, usually there is some sort of tournament or competition at the end of the season. By participating in this activity week after week, your child will learn how to set a goal and realize that to accomplish it they will have to invest time, practice, and commitment to see future results. Instant gratification is something that our children have been bombarded with in the days of technology, fast food, etc, so teaching them how patience and commitment results in future reward is important.
Number 4: They are learning responsibility
How many Saturday mornings have seen parents rushing around trying to find jerseys only to realize that the laundry never got switched over to the dryer?! When kids participate on a team, it is important to teach them to be responsible for their own equipment. If you have small children, you may start with having them set out their jerseys on the dresser Friday night in preparation for game day. Older kids can handle more responsibility and should be required to make sure their dirty uniforms get put into the laundry post games so they are clean for the following week. They should also be responsible to have everything prepared for practice so they aren’t rushing around in a panic when you are ready to walk out the door. Children are also learning how to be responsible for their schedules; for example, making sure playdates and birthday parties don’t conflict with their games and practices.
Number 5: They are learning to respect authority
We have all been on the sidelines when the refs made the worst possible call that ended up drastically changing the result of the game. The frustration that rises within us is valid, however, as the regulators of the game, they have the final say and we have to live with the consequences. When our children are part of a team, they are learning how to respect those in authority over them. On the field, those authorities are their coaches and referees. Sometimes our kids are blessed with excellent coaches whose passion to see the kids improve is palpable. Other times, it can be a struggle knowing that your child is not receiving the playing time or skills that they could be. In the future, our children may experience a less-than-wonderful boss or professor, and while they don’t need to agree with everything this authority figure does, they do need to have respect for their position. As far as refs of kids sports go, we need to remember that they are just people who will make human mistakes, and we need to teach our children to have a right attitude towards them.
When I think about the activities my children are involved in, I hope they come away having these lessons deeply rooted in their hearts, and that they always strive to do their own personal best.