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Sports……More Than Just A Game

March 16, 2010
High Energy Photos

Sports……More Than Just A Game

by Larry Joe Begley

When approached to prepare an article for publication about sports, my immediate response was to figure out what I should write about.  I mean, really ….. there are so many things that could be considered as topics.  I rejected topic after topic on my way to watch my five year old son take part in a youth basketball game and it hit me.  I decided to ask him why he liked playing sports.  While his youth does not lend to expertise, he has experienced Tee Ball, Flag Football and now basketball.  I also caught myself just simply being curious.  After all, “Kids say the darndest things”.  If he didn’t provide any useful insight to my on the spot research, it would still be interesting.
The initial response was simple, but true.  He told me it was fun.  After prompting, and some admitted leading questions, he told me he liked being with his friends.  I further investigated and struck a nerve when I asked about losing his last game.  He emphatically let me know that he did not like it, not even a little.  I therefore surmised that success in competition was part of the allure to him as well.
My topic then was settled.  I had heard all I needed.  While his responses are true and pure, as his dad, I felt I had the right to elaborate on his simple replies.  I do not imagine that many kids would disagree that they play sports to:
•    To have fun
•    To learn new skills
•    To be with their friends
•    To make new friends
•    To succeed or win
•    To become physically fit
•    To get much needed and deserved attention
I also feel that kids usually get the benefits they seek from sports and more. Kids need attention and respect (in that order), but they have few ways to get them. What is unique about sports is that they offer kids a setting and environment where they can earn attention and respect with nothing more than their natural abilities. Kids are good at sports because sports are essentially about speed, strength, coordination, vision, and creativity, which are physical attributes of youth.
Now as his parent I interject that participation in sports provides opportunities for leadership and socialization, as well as the development of skills for handling success and failure. Moreover, when playing sports, children learn how to follow rules. They learn the consequences of actions and inactions.  What I mean can be better understood by a real conversation between me and my son. He wanted me to shoot the basketball because he was struggling.  He had shot maybe 3 shots and not made any, while he watched me make two out of three (on a 7 foot goal, I had to add that).  He went on to say I can’t do it.  I told him that I know he can’t, that I had been watching too.  He was taken back by this response and said, “why can’t I Daddy?”  I simply explained that I had more practice than him and that he needed to catch up.  After he shot four or five more he made one.  He was happy, and even more eager to practice because he saw the  rewards of his efforts. 
I could best summarize that sports are more than a game because of all the benefits I have seen as a player, teacher and coach.  I contend that there are: Physical Benefits, Personal Benefits and Social Benefits.
The Physical Benefits are easy to see, after all they are physical.  There is the fitness that comes from being active.  There is the stress relief that comes from being able to remove yourself from the real world while taking part in sports.  There is also the increased skill set that leads to satisfaction of a job well done.
The personal benefits are just as important, at least to me.  The whole idea that practice does make perfect may be daunting, but it does make you at the very least, better.  Resilience is also a trait that will pay dividends over the course of ones life.  Further, I hope that it does not go unnoticed that attitude, self control and both setting and reaching goals are life long traits that will greatly impact not only the childs’ life, but quality of life.
The Social Benefits are life changers as well.  Relationships are made and internalized so that new ones can be made in the future.  Cooperation and teamwork are naturally reinforced in sporting events and carried over into adulthood.  Further, children and young adults are exposed to a large gamut of cultural diversity and sensitivities not really experienced any where else.
The key to this though are the supports from adults.  Sports itself does not guarantee anything I mentioned above.  As adults, we have the innate ability to mess things up for our kids.  If we are able to provide good guidance, solid advice and put everything in the perspective of kids first, then sports from youth to the highest level of amateur sports can be rewarding on many levels and of course, FUN.

**This is a pilot article inspired by a five year old and a good friend.  With that in mind, I plan to write more about “Lessons learned from a five year old” in the future.  It is amazing how much our youth can teach us, if we just listen.  God Bless.

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