“Sports are more than sports”. It’s something I have been telling the kids I coach for the past several years. Not sure if they get it now, but I sure hope they do some day. I hope that they learn to apply lessons learned in the game to their daily lives. Lessons of teamwork, effort, and taking direction.
Think about it. Isn’t the football, baseball, or soccer field a microcosm of the real world? Don’t the relationships built on a basketball court mirror society? In the real world, just as in a water polo match, we face competition, adversity, success, and failure. A lot can be learned from a simple game.
Let’s start with relationships. I’ve often felt that players socialize within their sport much the same as they will when they become members of the workforce. The way a player treats his teammates is the way he will treat his coworkers. Does he treat them with respect? Does he learn from the more experienced players and offer guidance to those who are new to the game? Or does he see his teammates as a threat to his position or playing time? His behavior now will have a direct reflect on his behavior on the job.
How does he interact with his coach? That’s exactly how he will interact with his employer. Does he listen, follow instruction, and put in an ernest effort to execute the game plan? Or does he think he knows the game better than anyone, and show complete disregard for what the “authority figure” had to say?
Umpires and referees? That relationship will reflect the player’s respect for the law. Does he abide by the rules of the game, or is he constantly seeing what penalties he can get away with.
And which group among the sporting world would you say represents the family? Take a look at how a player treats the people in the stands. Those are the ones who support the player, win or lose, rain or shine. More than fans, they are the support crew, rooting and cheering, donating to team fund raisers, providing transportation, and offering encouraging words when the outcome of the game is less than desired. Is the player grateful for his support crew, or does he take his ‘family’ for granted?
Along with relationships, a player’s character on the field can quite accurately predict the future. Does she give her all in practice, or cut corners and dog it during laps? Is she humble during victory? Gracious during a loss? Is a bad performance followed by sulking… Or motivation to “get ’em next time”? Trust me, that character carries on for years to come.
We shouldn’t just look at participants as proof that “sports are more than sports”. As parents, are we applying too much pressure? As fans, how do we behave in the stands? As coaches, are we nurturing and instructing, or breaking clipboards over our knees?
Youth sports are a fun, exciting way for children to interact with others and get some great exercise. They are also some of the most valuable training opportunities we have for the adults of tomorrow. They are, that is, as long as we always remember, that “sports are more than sports”.