In our house, spring is sports season. And it’s a time we take pretty seriously!
In fact, three out of every five weekdays are spent either on the soccer field or the baseball diamond, with practices and tournaments in between as well!
While it can sometimes be hard to get kids interested in a team sport, finding one that suits them really is worth the effort. Not only is it a great way to ensure kids stay active, it provides so many other benefits beyond physical activity.
These are just a few of the life skills I’ve seen my boys develop since they started playing team sports:
One of the best things about team sports is that no matter which one a child chooses, the sport will have different positions that play different essential roles in the game.
My baseball-playing oldest is usually on second base, a position that suits him well since he has a strong arm and good base skills. But that same strong arm means he’s often also put in the outfield, a position any baseball fan knows isn’t always the most exciting.
That’s the thing about a team sport, though. The player in right field is just as essential to the game as the pitcher, and just as likely to win a game with a great catch.
Similarly, when my youngest son plays soccer, the kids clamber to be chosen as the Centre. After all, the Centre gets to start with the ball and make that all-important first pass!
But the Goalkeeper is just as important and sometimes, the position is just as exciting! Benjamin loves running around, but he’s always willing to take his turn in the net as well because he knows that not only is the position essential, it’s also one that may award the opportunity for him to dive onto the ball and make a dramatic save!
The cooperation skills both boys are learning are ones that they’ll continue to use for a lifetime.
From coordinating on group activities at school to working together as adults, being able to recognize the value that different people’s skills can bring to an activity will help prepare the kids on the team for successful, functional partnerships as adults. It’s a small but vital skill that carries a lifetime of positive benefits!
It’s only natural that every child wants to be the star of the team, and that’s especially true of my energetic oldest.
He’s naturally athletic and tends to quickly pick up the basics of any sport he tries, from soccer and baseball to golf and tennis. Since he’s quick to learn new skills, he tends to think that it’s simply logical he be best at whatever he decides to do.
But playing on a team isn’t about being the best, personally. It’s about making sure your entire team is the best they can be, and that means supporting one another through good times and bad.
And when kids play competitive sports, there are plenty of both moments! Even though I know Zackary wishes that he had more chances to pitch this season, he still energetically cheers on his team’s top pitchers every time they strike out a batter.
And similarly, when a child walks off the field dejected about a bad inning or striking out at bat, every teammate is there to tell him that he did a good job and that they’re proud of him.
My youngest has the same moments playing soccer, though in the U8 division the games aren’t nearly as competitive. The entire team celebrates every great play by a teammate as if it was their own, and even the kids sitting off for their shift are as actively involved in the game as if they were out on the field running around.
Supporting one another, comforting each other and celebrating victories together is a skill that I know my boys will use for a lifetime not just in school, sports and work but in everyday relationships with friends, family and loved ones.
Of course, one of the most fun things about being on a team is the chance to face off against other teams! Both my boys have been placed on teams that win almost all their games and teams that hardly win at all.
I’ll admit, it can be hard for me as a parent to see my boys giving their all and then still coming home with a loss. But the lessons they learn along the way make that temporary disappointment well worth it.
And both experiences have helped them learn what it means to win with grace and to lose with dignity.
Losing at anything isn’t easy for a child, especially when the child has a naturally competitive nature. But when my boys’ teams do lose, I notice some great things happening.
First of all, the coaches and parents are quick to remind the kids that they tried their best and played a great game regardless. Almost immediately, the kids themselves remember some of the great plays they made and celebrate those rather than wallowing about their loss.
And secondly, they’re taught that even when they’re feeling down about losing, they need to show respect to the team they played by shaking hands and congratulating the players. The kids realize that even though losing doesn’t feel great, it’s not the end of the world.
Similarly, the boys are taught that no win is worth making another person (or another team) feel bad about themselves.
The coaches are quick to ensure that, even after an especially hard-fought game, the kids don’t yell, cheer and carry on in front of the team they just defeated. Instead, they shake hands graciously and save their celebrating for later.
In fact, if the boys start to forget this important rule of good sportsmanship, the coaches will sometimes keep the score a secret until the game is over and the boys are having their post-game meeting to discuss their playing.
As important as all these skills are, they really are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of team sports for kids. So, why not find some fun ways to get your own kids more active?
Head out to your nearest sports park to let your kids try out some throwing and kicking. No matter what sport they decide to try and no matter how good they are, they’ll develop confidence, determination, sportsmanship and other skills that will benefit them for a lifetime!