Sport, parenting and 5 life-lessons
Smelly socks, hungry kids, sweaty bodies and a car full of sports clothes and school books will hold fond memories for me for years to come. Sport is wonderful. It is a something that our family really enjoys. At any given time, one of the four of us is busy with some form of sporting activity and it brings us great joy. Parenting through the life lessons that sport brings is a fabulous tool for raising children.
We were made to move
My children have always gone to schools that encourage physical activity. I reminisce with joy at the memory of arriving at my son’s school for the afternoon pick up. Instead of waiting in the car, I walked onto the school grounds and sat on a chair enjoying a quiet moment in the sun. To my surprise, I saw a teacher march a group of 8 year-old boys to the centre the field and then watched them do a few push ups, star-jumps and 5 minutes of physical activity. She then proceeded to herd them back into line and into the classroom. When I asked about it, I learnt that boys really struggle to sit still and at times they interrupt the day to get rid of some of the pent-up energy in these young ones.
On the sports field, our children learn many life lessons that they can internalise as they grow up. One of our friends is a soccer coach and he told us that at the start of any soccer season, he would take time to speak to the parents. He often tells them: “You can choose one of three roles – the coach, the referee or the parent. Please pick one of them and let me know”. Your children need you to be their loving parent and supporter. Be their biggest and number one fan.
Your son or daughter’s success or lack of success in sports does not indicate what kind of parent you are… But having a child who is an athlete that is coachable, a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient and who tries their best is a direct reflection of your parenting. You cannot control their behaviour on the sports-field, but through your parenting you can guide them and trust that they will make the right decisions during the game.
5 life-lessons from sport
When they play a team sport, they learn that every member of the team matters. The goalie is the first line of attack and the forward or goal scorer often only shines because of the hard yards put in by the defenders or mid-fielders. It’s a team effort. When one wins, we all win. As Babe Ruth said: “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
By teaching our children to win and lose graciously, we train them for life. To play a game with a smile on your face and with a good attitude stands them in great stead for the game of life. No-one likes a sore loser. It’s important to teach your son and daughter to lose well. Their value as a human being does not depend on them winning and they need to know that from you.
In life, you need to spend a season training for certain roles. Just as in sport, you cannot arrive to play a game of tennis with no training or coaching. Foundations need to be laid and your muscles must get strengthened. You cannot skip the foundations, no short cuts here.
Much of sport gets played in the mind. As an athlete, you need to overcome the obstacles in your mind first before you body follows suit. Training your child to think correctly and accurately is a great life lesson. Their self-talk and mindset matters how they perform on the sports-field and in life.
As your child gets older, they will need to learn to manage their time balancing school work and sport. They will need to prioritize certain activities and learn to make the right choices to succeed. How many adults struggle to manage their time?
My daughter recently went on a hockey tour to Holland. But, what preceded this sports tour was interesting. Besides the trials, their coaches asked them to commit to a 3 months of pre-tour training (these were extra hockey sessions on a weekend). They had to make sure their school work was up to date and that they were cross-training to increase fitness. The joy in her eyes after a practice session could light up the room. I know that she had to push through and I know that the lessons she has learnt from this tour will stand her in good stead as she gets ready to finish her schooling in a few years.
She sent me this picture from one of the hockey clubs in Holland saying it made her giggle. So, I would like to leave you with these thoughts from this image in your mind. Enjoy encouraging your child to play sport and to have fun in the process.