The Littlest Athletes

“Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose-it teaches you about life.” –Billie Jean King

Lessons from Sports

There aren’t many days I get in my car without seeing a basketball or soccer ball rolling around in the floor board. My personal favorite is when I open the back liftgate and a ball from yesterday’s practice goes rolling across a parking lot. Then there I am running after it in heels and work attire. We are definitely a sports oriented family, and I love it. There are many days I rush home after work to get one or more kids ready for practice. After practice we rush home for dinner, bath, and bedtime. It is fun to have them in sports, but relaxing it definitely is not! Two of my kids are already very active in sports and the littlest one is starting her first soccer league next month. She is so excited that she has already started sleeping in my son’s old soccer jersey! (Seriously adorable!) So we will have 3 in soccer and then baseball will overlap with the end of that season. This past fall was the first time my son and daughter had soccer practice on the SAME day! (You would have thought I won the lottery when I received their practice schedule, I was that excited….it’s the little things sometimes!)

We live in a great community and the kids play most of their sports with the same group of children. They love the familiarity and honestly so do I. Some people think we are nuts for committing to all of these sports with multiple children. If they didn’t love it, we wouldn’t do it. (And it’s getting busier with each season that arrives now that the little one is starting too!) I truly do believe that children have so much to learn and so much to gain from playing sports. I believe it goes way beyond the athletic fundamentals. This week I took my son to his six year check-up. I brought this topic up with his pediatrician, Dr. Frank Haraf from the Children’s Clinic of Nashville. He pointed out for me some of things children gain from being a part of a sports team and I thought I would share them.

Obviously we talked about the benefit of exercise and physical activity, which is so important in an age where children love to play video games. It allows children to exercise while learning about themselves. Another benefit he mentioned was that they learn their strengths, their personal sports preferences, and they learn the ability to set personal goals. (You already know I love that!) One of the best reminders he gave me was that playing sports helps them build self-esteem and also allows them to build relationships with others through teamwork. It teaches children discipline and respect. They learn how to celebrate individual goals as well as team goals. They also learn good sportsmanship and learn about picking themselves up when they lose. (and learning something from it) Most importantly, he reminded me that all of these are things they will carry with them though life.

Kids

So, whether it is soccer basketball, baseball, karate, dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, or any other type of physical activity, there is a lot for children to gain. I was so proud of my step daughter this past year. She made it to the last cut of her middle school’s cheerleading squad then didn’t make the team. Instead of being upset, she joined a rec league and worked on getting better. (Which she has, she even mastered her back hand spring!) This fall she will try out for her school’s team again. I have a good feeling she will make it! Don’t get me wrong, I know sports are not for all kids, and there isn’t anything wrong with that at all! Differences are what make us all who we are. We all have to find our own interests.

Soccer cleats

My kids get so excited when they outgrow cleats or basketball shoes because they know I will have to invest in buying new ones. (Who doesn’t love new shoes?!) I have shopped at Sport Seasons for as long as I can remember for athletic shorts and shoes, first for me and now for my kids. They are so excited when I bring them home something new to practice or play in. That brings me to another point. Remember when you went to buy a soccer ball and it was black and white? And cleats were black? They are way more fun now!! The shorts, the socks, the shin guards and the balls are bright, fun colors! You can get a soccer package at Sport Seasons for $39.99 which includes a ball, shin guards, and cleats….not a bad deal at all!

Soccer ballsI have said before, when you look good….you feel good…. kids are no different! Yes it is another expense on top of registration fees to have to buy clothes and shoes for sports, but it is worth it because I have seen how much they gain from playing. We never make our children play anything they don’t want to play, but they do have to finish what they started. (No quitting mid season!) Commitment is another good thing to learn. So this spring I will spend most of my Saturdays at the soccer fields. (That is until baseball starts anyway…) Most of the snack bar volunteers know my 3 year old by name, we keep them in business. So although sometimes I may complain about the rush of getting everyone ready and the chaos of it all, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sports help build strong kids, and they will take so much of what they learn with them forever. For that I am grateful. One day I know they will be too.

“You can’t win unless you learn how to lose” – Kareem Abdul Jabbar

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