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?

It’s the beginning of the school year and in my family that means the beginning of football season. My oldest son participates in the Rocket football league which in our town means you’re between 8- and 12-years-old. 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. But, there are also a lot of great points to football and it goes far beyond the hitting and yelling. These boys are learning life skills that they can use the rest of their lives.

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

Social skills

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

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, and 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 will help youth gain healthy competitive skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.


  • 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, and good sportsmanship is a trait that carries over from childhood to adulthood. Athletes who focus on mastering personal improvement have a good chance on later becoming good citizens and hard workers. Good sports tend to better cooperate with others and make moral decisions instead of being ego-oriented individuals who behave badly, according to Education World, an online resource for educators .

Leadership abilities

  • Achieving leadership skills is a life lesson learned when children participate in sports. Obtaining leadership qualities that range from being a good character, to respecting others, to 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 only 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.

Related Articles