Anyone who’s ever watched Any Given Sunday will know, there are many great life lessons we can all learn from sport. As its rousing speech proclaims: “In either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small.”
Across the world, we see the positive effects of sport, especially sport for kids; it brings communities together, installs positive thinking, teaches discipline, and helps individuals develop life-long skills that are transferable off the pitch.
As parents, we always strive to do the best we can for our children. Which is why sport and physical activities for kids provide an opportunity for them to learn valuable life lessons. Here’s just a few of them:
Dealing with pressure
Pressure is part of sport – both team sports and individual. Whether it’s sports for toddlers, or activities for older children, there’s an element of competitiveness involved. These opportunities can teach children from a young age they can deal with pressure. It comes down to setting achievable goals, and learning that in the long run, we only ever compete against our greatest adversary – ourselves.
The ability to learn this from a young age can have many benefits. It teaches resilience and develops self-esteem. Learning that we can’t (and don’t) always win, will help us greatly in life; from the workplace to our home lives.
The importance of wellbeing
Much has been reported about the importance of children’s wellbeing in the past few years; both physically and mentally.
Recently, the Sports Minister said: “It is clear that exercise and organised sport in particular can play a huge part in children’s personal resilience and emotional wellbeing.”
Physical activities for kids are increasingly important in the wake of childhood obesity. But more than just exercise, the opportunity to mix with other children, to take part in a sport and achieve success, no matter how small, is beneficial for an individual’s overall wellbeing.
Installing a life-long passion for sport of any kind will likely stay with your child into adulthood, as a healthy outlet and hobby.
Winning and losing is part and parcel of competitive sport. This helps to build resilience, as well as problem-solve, as children learn harder lessons from failure.
Resilience is a quality that extends into all areas of life; from not getting a job, to dealing with relationship woes. Thus, learning to build a ‘thicker skin’ from a young age can have significant benefits throughout life.
Particularly in team sports like football, netball and rugby; where there’s a coach or manager, it’s important to pay attention. Listening, is a crucial skill that can be taught in a fun way, when it comes to exercise for kids.
Central to this is listening to feedback. By learning that we are all on a journey, and to be graceful about our failures and achievements, we grow as individuals. This is extremely useful when it comes to exam time too.
Team work makes the dreamwork!
Learning to communicate and cooperate with different personalities towards a shared goal is one of the great benefits of sport for kids. Not only are friendships made, but we learn to work with challenging personalities too.
Being armed with a cohesive approach to team work is a real advantage in any industry your child choses to enter.
If nothing else, sport teaches us about time management and goal setting. We learn to set targets for ourselves, and think about how we will achieve these.
This in turn teaches us to stay focused. When we think of athletes we admire, it is often the ones that have the ability to stay focused; Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Andy Murray are just a few of the greats.
When children finally achieve goals they have set, it can be extremely rewarding, and is a great value to instil from a young age.
It’s not all about winning
In sport and exercise psychology, we learn that sport is not just about winning. It’s about the the process, the value of hard work, respect and values and so much more. But in sport, we learn to lose graciously.
It’s a reflection of our times that children today are too often sheltered from the harsh realities of life. Learning to fail, as well as win, teaches us important coping mechanisms for later in life.
We are also taught valuable lessons about leadership; what makes someone a good leader, what can we learn from them, how would we do things differently.
Nelson Mandela famously said; “Sport has the power to change the world… to unite people in a way that little else does.”
This is especially true when it comes to dealing with adversity. In sport, like in life, there are many obstacles to overcome. It’s often seen in football how a team will rally together and outperform when a player is sent off. This is a typical sporting mind-set; finding positive solutions to overcome adversity. It applies to every type of sport – from being injured to being a smaller physical build, everything can have an advantage as well as weakness; it’s about how we perceive it.
Respect and values
It’s said that sport is a universal language that brings together people of all walks and backgrounds. It can teach us about respect for ourselves and others. For this very reason, sports for kids is used as a positive force for change, especially seen in charities like Right 2 Play and Sport England.
This has life-long implications too. Studies by the government has found that underachieving young people in extra-curricular learning activities linked to sport, could increase their transferable skills, on average, by between 12% and 16%.
Never giving up
And finally, in this long journey through life, those who remain positive in the face of adversity, those who are strong in spirit and those that solider on refusing to ever give up, will remain at an advantage.
If nothing else, learning to pursue our goals and never give up, might just be the greatest lesson of all.
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