What do youth sports teach our children, really?

There are a lot of great points to youth sports that extend far beyond the playful hitting and yelling. It is the life skills that they learn and will take with them forever.

What do youth sports teach our children, really?

There has been a lot of controversy about whether or not young children should begin to play football. As a mother, it is hard to watch your child be under a pile of other players, wondering if they are going to get up and listening to coaches yelling at them. However, there are some great lessons learned from playing football that go far beyond the hitting and yelling. These young children are learning life skills that they can use the rest of their lives.

According to Michigan State University Extension these are the top four life skills children learn while participating in a sport:

1. Social skills

The social aspect of sports might be what entices children to play in the first place. Youth sports participation lets children spend time with friends in a safe environment while practicing social skills that are likely to last a lifetime. Aside from bonding with peers, kids learn to solve conflicts effectively, reach common goals and learn to be more assertive, all while getting much needed physical activity. A child’s communication skills are improved while playing a sport, giving a child needed life skills.

2. Competitive skills

Although there is such a thing as being too competitive, it’s important for a child to understand the positive aspects of competition. Adults are surrounded by competition, from getting a job to moving up in the work force. When children learn the basics of competition early, they have a better chance of succeeding. Sports participation helps children cope with competition in a friendly environment. Working to achieve a goal or being part of a team can help kids gain healthy competitive skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.

3. Sportsmanship

Sportsmanlike behavior is a lesson that children obtain from playing sports. Children learn to positively handle both the winning and losing aspect of playing a sport. Good sportsmanship is a trait that carries over from childhood to adulthood. Athletes who focus on mastering personal improvement have a good chance later on becoming good citizens and hard workers. A child who learns to be a good sport can translate that skill to better cooperating with others and making decisions based on their own morals rather than being ego-oriented individuals who behave badly, according to Education World, an online resource for educators .

4. Leadership abilities

Obtaining leadership qualities that range from being a good character to respecting others and being task oriented can be accomplished in both team and individual sports. A solid support system, such as a strong parental involvement and effective coaching can help mold a child into being a leader now, and later in life.

The coaching staff for my son’s team told them in the huddle that giving 100 percent on the field will help them to give 100 percent in whatever else they do in life. Do these boys understand that concept at this young age? Maybe not, but having the discipline to play as a team day after day and to give all they can to their team will certainly pay off for them in the long run as adults.

Need more parenting information? Check out MSU Extension’s Nurturing Families program.

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