Forgive me, ref, for I have sinned. I’ve yelled at the coach (once). I’ve yelled at my daughter (more than that). I’ve paid ridiculous amounts of money for shoes, uniforms, fees and camps. I’ve secretly been glad when that other punk player (you know the one) gets smacked in the face with the ball or an elbow. Despite all the bad sportsmanship, coddled players, cheating and even steroids you can find in youth sports — I love it! Here are five reasons any parent should be proud to put her kids in sports.
These kids do the time. Whether on the practice field or at home in the back yard, young athletes learn that to do something well you need to practice. Good coaches can help youth understand that working hard can be fun and brings a lot of satisfaction. With practice comes improvement, and kids feel good about how far they’ve come. I love it when my son calls me to the driveway hoop to show me the new shot he can sink.
My daughter is not a natural runner. My husband says, “She runs funny — like you.” For a while, she consistently came in last (sometimes second to last) when her team would run. While I was lazing around in bed last summer, she got herself up and went on her own to run laps around the park down the street. When our family ran a 5k on the 4th of July, I ate her dust. It wasn’t even close. I’m glad she’s learned never to give up.
When you’re on a team, a lot of people are counting on you. The team, the coach and the fans are all expecting you to show up on time and do your best. If you slack off at practice or miss a game, it not only affects you — it affects them, too. Learning that when you make a commitment you then have to follow through is an important life skill. It will serve my kids well in future schooling, jobs and relationships.
Sometimes you have to let someone else be the hero. In sports, kids learn to think not of what’s best for themselves, but what’s best for the whole team. Some selfish athletes and parents give sports a bad rap, but youth sports is also filled with amazing acts of kindness. Kids will give-up the last shot, help an injured player from another team, take a knee out of respect and show unflinching honesty. When my daughter stops in the middle of play because another player has fallen down and she wants to make sure she’s OK, I have to feel a little pride. (I also frequently have to yell, “Keep playing!”)
Sometimes the amazing shot falls. Sometimes the put sinks. Sometimes the underdog wins. Sports teach kids that anything is possible. Athletes and fans do believe in magic. The look on my son's face when he made his first header goal in soccer is something I’ll never forget.
So despite the money, frustrations and never-ending chauffeuring — I love kids’ sports. My children are learning things that will help them become better people and have happier lives.