Resilience, leadership skills, respect for others, self-esteem, patience and appreciation for differences in others - these are just a few things that we all hope to see develop in young children. While many of these skills can be developed in school and at home, a child’s participation in team sports can greatly enhance all of these areas - all while the child is playing and having fun! Being on a soccer team, playing tee-ball, basketball, lacrosse and a multitude of other sports can have long lasting benefits for your child, outside of the physical aspects of sports.As a teacher in the lower school grades, I see many students who are just beginning to play sports outside of school. Many children already know what they want to play - soccer, baseball, basketball - the list goes on! They may see an older sibling already playing the sport, or watch their favorite pro sports teams on TV. But there are some who may need some encouragement to try out one of these team sports. For some it can be overwhelming and intimidating to play on a team sport for the first time. Perhaps finding a friend or neighbor to try the sport with or spending some time practicing at home before they start team play will add encouragement. This extra boost of confidence can benefit a child in the long run if they find a team sport they enjoy.
There are so many opportunities for growth and learning when playing team sports can be carried over into a child’s school and home life. For instance, learning how to keep trying, even when things get tough. Many young children aren’t given the opportunity to “fail”, so they are more likely to give up when they encounter a situation that is difficult. When playing a sport, children learn that practicing helps you improve, and that losing a game is not a big deal when you have another game next week. They can learn from their experiences and try again. Building this resilience in young children is an invaluable life skill and one that can be learned very naturally when playing on a team. Team sports can also help build a child’s self esteem, as they can find their spot on the team to shine, as well as shoulder a loss with their teammates.
Cooperation is a skill learned and perfected when playing on a team and is a necessary
skill in both academics and in life. Those students who are not involved in group activities on a regular basis may have more difficulty knowing how to work with others. Team sports can give children the lessons in knowing when to be a leader, seeing the strengths in others and in themselves and how to put them together for the best final product. Even children as young as 4 or 5 years old need to learn how to work and play with their peers in order to be successful in school in the older grades.
There are numerous other benefits of team sports as well. As a teacher, an athlete and a coach, I feel that the life lessons learned from sports can be life changing. Team sports can change a child who may be less confident in the academic world into a leader on the sports field. Children who may have difficulty with overcoming obstacles can learn how to pick themselves up after a tough loss and keep going. The next time you think about choosing an activity for your child outside of school, try one of your local sports leagues. It just may benefit them for the rest of their lives.