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The value of youth sports

Viernes, 2 de Junio de 2017

Read our June article and find out why to raise an athlete.

From a family who have played multiple sports over the years, I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the absolutely brutal. The negative aspects of youth sports — injuries, out­ of ­control parents, costly travel, bullying coaches and more — have parents wondering if it’s worth it to let their children continue playing. Have we reached a point where the negatives outweigh the positives in youth sports?

For me, the answer is a resounding ‘NO.’ When I think about the value of sports and why children continue to play, it’s because it teaches them critical lessons in becoming successful adults. Through sports, kids learn how to work in teams, how to be coachable, how to take risks, how to challenge themselves to be better, and how to behave when they lose — and when they win.

Whether children play football, baseball, handball, or basketball, they learn they are part of a team where one person depends on another. Sports also teach children to trust and respect the decisions of someone who understands how the entire team — not just a single individual — needs to work in order to succeed. It’s all about a player’s trust and respect for the coach. Work with a difficult colleague? Not happy with your new timetable? It’s all about respecting the decisions of your manager.

When my cousin loses a tennis match, her coach inevitably reminds her that “you learn more from losing than from winning.” That can be hard to stomach when you’ve lost a match you could — and should — have won, but he’s right. Losing makes you focus on improving your skills and your strategy, and sometimes it means taking more risks. I think the parallels with adulthood are straightforward. Maybe we didn’t get that new job or miscalculated how much to bid for our dream house. But we aim to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

Even more important than learning from mistakes is learning how to lose with grace. It’s the cardinal rule of sportsmanship. Youth sports are a training ground for children to learn to be accountable for their actions and ‘own’ the loss. Don’t blame your partner. Don’t blame the referee, umpire, or line judge. Don’t blame the goalkeeper for letting in the winning goal or the centre fielder for misplaying the ball. Applaud the opponent, shake hands and vow to do better next time.

I believe that participating in youth sports is much more than building a sound body or winning a scholarship to university. Sports are the best way to shape and build more resilient, self­ motivated and happier children — and help them become more resilient, self­ motivated and happy adults. Want to raise a winner? Raise an athlete.