My boys have been on various sports teams for as long as I can remember. Between soccer, basketball, baseball, football and surf team, we’ve done most team sports (and logged thousands of miles and thousands of dollars too!)
Team sports aren’t all about physical benefits, and are a great way to explore and develop lifelong skills. Here are 17 ways kids can benefit from team sports.
1. Team sports increase self-esteem.
Being part of a team, with a united goal, is an incredible way to connect with team mates and coaches alike. Contributing to a team, regardless of whether it’s a leadership position, will ultimately contribute to a boost in a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Being part of a team allows kids to give and receive praise, and receiving recognition from a team mate or coach shows acknowledgement for their effort and consequently will boost self esteem.
2. Team sports build strong relationships.
We’ve spent hours and hours commuting, and on the sidelines with parents and children from various teams. The camaraderie and support between parents, siblings and team mates is truly bonding. We have the collective goal of wanting the team, and the players to succeed. We rely on each other to fill in the gaps when you physically cannot be there, and when your child needs support — and this trust shows both on and off the field.
3. Team sports help develop critical thinking skills.
Each game situation is completely different. Tactics, opponents, strengths and weaknesses all need to be taken into consideration. Sometimes players need to figure out how to shut down a star player on the other team; other times it’s trying to figure out how to use their own players to draw errors. Regardless of the challenge, critical thinking skills are required to solve it.
4. Team sports teach that life isn’t always fair.
This is a tough lesson at any age. We’ve had referees not call a game-changing penalty when it clearly (in our opinion) should have been called … and we’ve also had referees call a penalty, when if truth be told, we didn’t actually deserve it. The lesson here is that there’s one person in charge of making calls in the game, and regardless of how strongly you feel the wrong call might have been made, you simply don’t have the power to change the call. In fact, you not only (usually) cannot change calls, but you also need to accept them and move on quickly, because typically arguing and complaining is only going to impact your performance and the game negatively.
5. Team sports teach that life is tough sometimes.
Sometimes, regardless of how hard you work and prepare, unfortunate things happen. (I’m looking at you, broken toe the first game of JV soccer season!) For those unfortunate enough to experience this heartbreaking lesson, it can be devastating both physically and mentally. The only choice is to move forward, follow the plan, and work hard to recover.
6. Kids should play multiple sports.
Both boys have identified soccer as their #1 sport. They love it, live for it and play it for hours each week. However, I think it’s critical that kids play multiple sports and we certainly encourage it. For starters, it’s good for them to be challenged, and be humble when learning something that doesn’t come easily to them.
Different sports require different levels of skill, focus, endurance and physical work. Working with many different coaches and coaching styles has taught important life lessons (even the coach who yelled at the umpire every game without fail and had a temper tantrum each time we were losing.) This has helped my boys learn to work and respect different coaching styles, and practice other skills relating to sports and life.
7. Team sports help kids learn to accept defeat.
Bad sportsmanship is ugly. No one likes a poor loser, but let’s face it, if you drive 2 hours each way for a soccer game, it never feels great to lose. But losing is incredibly important. I’ve watched the wheels come off many kids (and parents!) on the field, as the final whistle draws closer, and the pressure of losing is imminent. It stinks. It doesn’t feel good. But losing with grace and dignity is an important lesson to learn. To look a person in the eye you have spent the past 90 minutes battling with and tell them “nice job,” is incredibly difficult (especially for testosterone-fueled young teens), yet incredibly important.
This is a critical lesson to learn from sports, and carry into the future. Good coaches teach athletes to lose with dignity and respect, and that there’s always a learning experience to learn from each loss and failure. The thing that makes me most proud as a mom is not whether my kid scores a goal, but when I see my boys shake the hands of the officials and opponents after every game, regardless of the outcome. My heart swells — it makes me proud and I feel I’ve done something right.
8. Team sports helps kids develop character and teamwork skills.
Teamwork is a skill we use our whole life, so it’s important to learn the basics early. Playing team sports at a young age allows children to participate in social interactions, work together to achieve goals, and build skills such as teamwork and leadership. Being part of a team allows children to sort through their strengths and weaknesses.
9. Team sports builds perseverance.
My boys are often placed in tough situations during games and practices. I’ve watched them recognize a problem and quickly adapt to the situation and work through them. I’ve also watched them get smashed 8 – 0 by the other team. Practicing perseverance with this kind of pressure can lead to better coping skills, and critical thinking skills when they’re met with challenges at school or at home. They’ll get comfortable with high pressure situations they’ll experience later in life like public speaking or taking their first exam.
10. Team sports teach that hard work pays off.
Nothing worth having comes easy. Ever. There are no shortcuts in sports (even if you are Messi!) and athletes who are successful have one thing in common: very hard work and consistent dedication. Talent definitely plays a role in the early years, but as they mature, it’s the hard workers that rise to the top. Practicing a skill you find difficult can be boring and tedious, but mastering a skill can only be reached with intense focus and work. You can’t just set goals and hope they’ll come true; there needs to be a clear path to success. Hard work creates confidence, which then creates results, which boosts self esteem.
11. Team sports helps control emotions.
This one is still a work in progress for my boys … especially my son Julian. One coach giving out awards at the end of the season, gave Julian his and said, “This kid wears his heart on his sleeve at every single game and every single practice.” And it’s true. There were times he’d cry in frustration at every single game, but with age he has (mostly) learned to channel his frustrations in constructive ways.
Sports can be super frustrating — not only for players, but for parents and coaches too. We often experience games where we cannot for the life of us score a goal, or when we feel the officials are not treating our team equitably. Experiencing feelings of frustration and anger, and learning to control and channel that, will help players in all aspects of their lives.
12. Team sports build leadership skills.
I think it’s fantastic when coaches encourage all kids to be leaders. This could be as simple as allowing different players to lead warm-ups before practice, or rotating the captain of each game. When given opportunities to lead, players are forced to step up, become more confident in themselves and leading others, and in turn develop skills that will support them in life.
13. Team sports teach discipline.
Team sports require kids to be disciplined both tactically, mentally and physically. In order to be successful in sports, children learn self-restraint, and how to behave in a controlled way during stressful situations. Good discipline and decision making will help them in life situations to achieve goals and reach their full potential.
14. Team sports help parents be present and teach them how to support their child.
Game day is stressful for the strongest of athletes, and we’ve all been at games where parents, players and coaches have lost their minds. I get it: there’s a lot of time, money and emotion invested, and I’m not sure I know of anyone who really enjoys losing. At the same time, we are setting strong examples for our children and they look to us for guidance. Nothing you can say to your kids will make them play better. Instead, try saying, “I love to watch you play,” “Do your best out there,” or “Have fun.” Try it at your next game!
15. Team sports teach collaboration.
Each person on the team has their own skill and characteristics. Coaches typically put players in positions to support their ability. This teaches players how to collaborate as part of a group and work as a team. It also teaches them to work toward something that cannot be done alone, and at times be selfless.
Studies show children who participate in sports are less likely to drop out of school or become involved in drugs and alcohol, while also excelling in academics and having a higher self-esteem. Sports are a way kids can be healthy, which has a direct influence on how they perform both at school and as adults.