I pretty much failed at every athletic endeavor I tried growing up: anything I was introduced to in PE class that resembled a sport, one cringe-worthy summer of softball and two hilarious years of ballet and tap. You’d think I’d try to steer my own kids away from sports, but instead I do what I can to encourage them to give all sports a chance. Here are some of the cool things I told them they could learn:
1. Try something new. It might lead to unexpected things.
First of all, you might have more fun than you thought you would, and you could make some amazing friends. It’s a break from screens and the routine of home life. At the very least, you are getting some exercise and learning a new skill!
2. Show up. It’s half the battle.
You might not feel like going to the practices and games, especially if a losing streak has visited your team, you’re having an issue with a teammate or are tired of playing outside in the cold or heat. Think about how you have to show up at school or you fail. This extends into more areas of your life later on, like friendship, family, work and marriage. Be the kind of person who shows up, because it’s going to be a real standout character trait.
It will carry you through life. When you’re older, you may get fired from a job, fail a college exam, tank a few relationships. It’s okay to experience losing when you’re young … it prepares you for life later. But try to be a good loser, because it looks ridiculous when people act like big babies over something that is meant to be played in fun.
4. Be a good winner. It shows character.
Learning how to be a graceful winner is just as important as learning how to be a graceful loser. Gloating and bragging are not cute in kids and definitely are not cute in adults. Shake hands and tell kids from the other team they did a great job.
5. Realize that it’s not always going to be fair.
No matter what the call is or how the other team plays, you should always play fair. You know what is right, so do it. A good athlete – and person – is honest and trustworthy. Also, a ref may make a call that was seen from a different angle or viewpoint and you know for a fact it was one way, but you still have to respect that call.
6. Embrace the fact that teamwork is everything.
You will always need this skill, so listen to others, respect differences, support others. Succeed or fail, but do it together. Every member of the team is important, so don’t downplay your place (or the place of others) on the team.
7. Understand that confidence and passion make up for a lack in ability many times.
You will go into a game more confident if you made all the team practices and also spent extra time practicing at home. Not the best kicker on the soccer team? Feel that inner confidence, take a deep breath and just keep trying. Don’t be scared to fail, do your best, practice and try your hardest.
8. Accept that mistakes are how we learn.
You may want to groan when someone on your team doesn’t make an easy shot, but instead try to understand they are still learning or maybe their mind wandered … they are just kids like you. Don’t have a fit if the ref makes a bad call or if the coach takes someone out then loses the game. You are also going to mess up sometimes and you want the same patience from your teammates, refs, other parents and coaches.
9. Recognize when leadership opportunities present themselves.
I love the teams who rotate the team captain responsibility so kids can all give it a try and see if they have a strength they didn’t realize they had. Even if you are not captain, you can still exhibit leadership by helping out younger kids or kids who need help with their skills. Help where you can, even if that just means handing out snacks and drinks after the games.
10. Master the art of downtime.
Ah, patience. Sometimes there is waiting around in sports. Some sports move more slowly than others, and some teams have more players than others. Sometimes you’ll have to play the entire game and sometimes you’ll be sitting out for half of it. Use downtime to make friends on the bench … but don’t forget to cheer on your team. What will you and your kid learn if you give sports a chance?