Sports remain a great metaphor for life’s more difficult lessons. It was through athletics that many of us first came to understand that fear can be tamed; that on a team the whole is more than the sum of its parts; and that the ability to be heroic lies, to a surprising degree, within.
Participating in sports is one probably one of the best experiences young people can have for developing life skills. Actually, I think sports participation is pretty great for people of all ages. Being part of a team teaches skills that are applicable across your life: school, relationships, work, you name it.
Just to clarify for all of you out there who are thinking “my teen plays an individual sport”, they are a part of a team. Sport does not happen in a vacuum. You have coaches, opponents, family and the other athletes you train with.
As an adult in the “real world” I look back on my many experiences as part of a team and see how they have shaped how I relate to others, how I handle situations and how I approach tasks. Without those experiences I am not sure where or how I would have learned some of these skills.
Coming up with a list of life skills that teens can learn through sport was easy, narrowing down that list to something manageable was incredibly hard! So, here you go, the top 5 life skills teens learn though participating in sports.
Working with Others
Sport – You don’t get to choose your coaches or teammates. You have to learn to deal with it and work together with your team!
Life – You will constantly be working and interacting with other people. Whether it be at school, work, or just something fun with friends there will be people you like being around and people you don’t. You need to learn to get along with and show respect to all kinds of people.
Sport – When you are learning and playing a sport you receive constant feedback from you coach about how you are doing. You then incorporate that feedback and adjust your performance.
Life – You will get feedback on your performance in many areas of your life. Learning how to take criticism as well as praise is important so you can keep making progress in whatever you are doing.
Sport – To improve in sports you set personal and team goals. You then take steps to meet that goal.
Life – In school, work and your personal life it is important to set goals for how you want your life to be. Because you have had experience working towards a goal you will know what it’s like to break that goal into manageable tasks and work towards the life you want.
Sport – Whether you win or lose you need to treat the other team with respect. Coaches and parents are also (hopefully) setting good examples for you about how to be a good sport.
Life – You will find yourself in many situations where you will need to decide to take the high road or the low road. Being respectful will always get you farther.
Sticking to It
Sport – When you make a commitment to playing you need to stick to it, at least for the season, even if it gets hard. You are responsible to yourself and your team. Seeing something through to the end will also give you a great sense of satisfaction and pride.
Life – Life is hard. Sometimes the things we need to do are not easy and we would rather just quit. By having already experienced working through tough times you gain the confidence and determination to push through other situations.
Sometimes these skills aren’t obvious to young people. As adults we need to help them see how what they are doing on the field (court, track, mat, floor, etc) also apply to situations off the field.
As I said, my original list was much longer than 5 and I will probably write more on this later. I also realize that this was all written in the context of sport, however I believe these same skills are also taught through participation in the performing arts, leadership and other extra-curricular activities and clubs.
Any time a young person participates in an organized activity they will learn something. Encourage any teens you are around to get involved. It really can make such a difference in their life!
What are other important skills teens can learn through sports?
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