By Katherine Smith
I have to start out by admitting to a little bias. I grew up rough and tumble. There were no contact sports that I didn’t try. Any type of ball and any size field was provocation enough to make a friend, and invent a game. Though I knew kids who had fallen and broken an arm or twisted an ankle, the thought of personal injury never really crossed my mind as a serious possibility. I was well-trained and very lucky.
That admission aside, I still believe it is vital that kids be allowed, encouraged, and maybe even cajoled into taking up a sporting activity. Sports offer too many benefits to be ignored. Not only should kids be encouraged to try a sport, they should try several. Different sports offer different benefits at different stages of physical development.
While more experienced young athletes may enjoy a few innings of hardball, younger kids just starting out will benefit more from slow-pitch softball. It is easy to look online and find the right equipment at the right price for your kids, whatever the sport. Online resources make it easy to locate specific equipment that is well suited to your kid’s size and abilities. There are almost no barriers to entry. Countless baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts are waiting for the arrival of your kids.
Here are a few reasons why you should help them get there:
Athletes Are More Durable
Counterintuitively, one of the best reasons to get your kids into rough and tumble sports is that it makes them more durable and less accident prone. In contact sports such as wrestling, football, and marshal arts, one of the first things a student learns is how to fall. That is because over the course of her training, there will be a lot of falling and being thrown. No one will last very long in a sport if they have not mastered the art of falling without getting hurt.
Athletes are also highly motivated to stay healthy. You don’t get to be in the lineup if you are in a cast. The kids that learn how to fall early, are far less likely to do so. When they do, it is far less likely to result in injury. It all comes down to learning how to control one’s body. Few things outside of sports and a good coach can do that job better.
Athletes Learn Teamwork
We are both physical and social creatures. Team sports teach us how to make the most of both those aspects of our humanity. Harmonious society is not a natural thing. Kids are lousy at it. There is nothing more selfish in all the universe as a newborn babe. We have to learn to recognize and respect the needs and wants of other people. It is not easy and takes a long time.
Team sports, for many kids, is one of the first real lessons in society. They learn to trust and share and sacrifice for something bigger than their own stats. They learn how to share both victory and defeat. They also learn that tribe is not limited to gender, ethnicity, or creed. Prejudices do not thrive in a team dynamic.
Athletics Provides Physical and Mental Challenge
It is a pitiable human being who lives his entire life without ever being pushed to his limits. How strong are you? If you do not push against a heavy weight, you will never know. How far can you run? How fast? For how long? Without physical challenge, you can never fully know yourself or your capabilities.
The same applies to mental challenges. Currently, chess is considered a sport. But all sports push us to solve problems rapidly. The mind and body have to work together in concert to shake the tackle or slide into Second. Whatever you are trying to accomplish, there is someone else who is trying just as hard to stop you. Learning how to meet the challenges in sports prepares us to meet those challenges in life.
Becoming rich and famous is no part of why sports is valuable. Becoming more durable, a better team player, and a more effective problem solver are, however, excellent reasons to size your kid for a new pair of cleats.