I don’t know where my son got the sports gene. Neither I nor my husband are sports enthusiasts, but our son is another story…he lives for baseball in the spring and fall, basketball during the winter, and track in the summer. Give this kid a ball and he’s happy. Beyond exercise, there’s so much more he’s learned from playing sports – he’s getting an opportunity to learn essential life lessons on the field and on the court.
1) He learns to lose…gracefully. Losing is not fun, but it’s part of life. Some days, your opponents are just a better team, sometimes you just don’t play well enough to win. Losing with grace and accepting responsibility for your loss (and not blaming everything else…the field was too wet, it was too windy, a black cat crossed our path…) is a real badge of maturity.
2) He learns to win…humbly. Hooray! We won! It’s ok to feel pride in your accomplishments, but don’t let it go to your head, because tomorrow you may be back on the losing side. Oh, and bragging about your win to your friends at school…big no-no!
3) There’s no I in team. No one does it alone – everyone must work together to win.
4) Sometimes you have to suck it up and do it. I realize that it’s no fun to stand out on a baseball field when it’s 50 degrees out and drizzling. But in life we all have to do things that we may not feel like doing…put on a sweatshirt and go.
5) You have to work at something to be good at it. There are very few people who are naturally gifted athletes. Through sports, he’s learned to recognize his weak spots, accept criticism and coaching, and put time, effort, and thought into working on his weaknesses.
6) Support every team member – even the weakest. There’s nothing as heart-warming as seeing all the kids on the team cheer on the kid who struggles. It almost brings tears to your eyes to know that if it was your kid in that spot, he would be as warmly embraced as the best player on the team.
7) Empathy. In baseball, almost everyone strikes out at some point – and because they are still little boys, sometimes the tears flow. Instead of teasing or getting angry, the kids empathize saying, “happens to everybody,” “next time,” they tell each other.
8) It’s not over ‘till it’s over. Just because your opponent is winning, it doesn’t mean you can stop trying. He’s learned to keep doing his best, because you never know what can happen – don’t give up on yourself and your team.
9) Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes the call goes in your favor, sometimes it goes against you – accept it and move on.
10) Friendly competition. In a town where many of the kids know each other and often face each other as rivals in sports, it’s important to know that it’s just a game, and at the end of it, you’re all still friends, classmates, and neighbors. My proudest moment during the playoff basketball game was when my son reached out to help a kid on the opposing team get up after he fell. To me, that was the most important moment of the game.