I recently read a brilliant article written by a 20 year old female rugby player Tesni Phillips titled ‘I would NEVER let my daughter play rugby’. http://rugbyunited.org.uk/content/i-would-never-let-my-daughter-play-rugby She wrote the article after an ignorant parent commented on how they would never let their daughter play rugby. Rather than ignore the comment the rugby player details how much her sport of rugby has impacted on her life and what that person’s daughter will miss out on.
This article spurred me on to write my own account of playing netball for the past 30 or so years with breaks for injuries and babies which you can read here https://northernscribbler.com/2016/01/19/8-reasons-why-women-should-play-team-sports/
But I also wanted to write my own account of being a parent of two boys who both play team sports. Not being a ‘pushy’parent but I do know the value of playing in team sports as I continue to play in mine, and they simply cannot be overstated.
One thing that is certain with team sports and that is the participant will experience injuries, will experience losing games, a dip in performance may result in being benched, some coaches suck and the player might hate him/her and think that they are treating them unfairly.
All of these are good, in my opinion as they provide a solid foundation to real life, something which I think that the current state of sport in schools has lost. Sports Days were the only competitive aspect to my schooling, and winners were rewarded and losers felt loss. Both of which are lacking in todays school now that all and sundry adopt the ‘it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part’.
My home has experienced broken arms, torn ligaments, fractured fingers, black eyes and twisted ankles though various injuries as a sporting family participating in ice-hockey, lacrosse, athletics, judo, tae kwon-do and netball.
I would never tell either of my children that they can’t play contact sports like that parent of the rugby girl did. Participating in sports has given them a wealth of experience, skills, memories and most importantly FUN. That’s all I ever wanted from the day I became a parent was to make sure that my children had fun, made memories and have a childhood to remember, in particular that they were permitted to experience life rather than be wrapped up in cotton wool and kept away from the world.
Okay, I will admit to being a tiny bit pushy. Both of my boys were forced to participate in swimming lessons from an early age. A lifeskill that I didn’t take lightly, given that I was the only child in my primary school who couldn’t swim. I recall the sheer embarrassment of having to wear arm bands as a ten year old and being taunted for that. I hated water, hated swimming and it took me to the grand old age of 33 to learn to swim properly. Firstly I didn’t want my kids to experience the embarrassment of being the only non-swimmer in their class when it came round to school swimming lessons. Secondly, I wanted them to enjoy holidays abroad and be able to swim in the sea, which was the main reason that I took lessons so I too could join in the fun in the Med.
From an early age both my boys were told to find sports that they would like to try for themselves. Basketball, football, tennis, athletics, martial arts and they finally both stuck to ice-hockey and lacrosse. The sport wasn’t important. To experience as many sports as possible is great as long as they stuck with one when they hit their teenage years.
1) Happier boys
You cannot argue with research and apparently an athletic student is happier than kids who do not participate in team sports. Good old endorphins help with feeling happy though. I know from a personal point of view that the thought of going to the gym makes me feel miserable, but I never leave the gym feeling unhappy. Teenager boys are also battling with testosterone during puberty and what better way to burn off that pent up aggression than a two hour training session on the ice twice a week. These sessions generally leave my boys so physically exhausted that they can’t be bothered getting grumpy and moody over day-to-day challenges.
2) Common goal
Being part of something that is bigger than themselves is a great thing. There isn’t much opportunity to do that as a child and it’s a great way to prepare for the wide world of work. Teams succeed and fail together and it’s a valuable life lesson being able to experience both the highs of winning, and the lows of losing. Being there for a team mate and also experiencing how it feels for a team-mate to have your back is something that those people who shy away from team sports will never truly understand or undergo.
3) Practice, practice, practice
Sports is the best place to learn about the importance of being determined and practicing to achieve an outcome. With the added incentive of not wanting to let your team mates down it is a valuable lesson in being responsible for others. Each team sport have designated positions which the person taking that role has to fulfil. As a defender in my netball team if I’m not up to challenging for a pass, a deflection or a loose ball then how are the attackers in my team going to do their job. I also find that there are plenty of excuses to not go to the gym session, but as a member of a team you have to turn out for team practices and matches otherwise the team will be short on players.
When my youngest son played for his Under 10s ice-hockey team they decided to have a parents vs kids match to which I ended up taking part in. I can barely skate, so to do that and try and control a puck was so difficult. I didn’t realise how difficult it was until I had a go and I came away from that session with an incredible respect for what my sons and husband are able to do on the ice. They really are experts in their sport as they make it look so easy, but trust me it isn’t. They would certainly have never developed such skills in balance, co-ordination, position and control by sitting on an xbox every night or drinking in the park until the early hours of the morning.
5) Keeping out of trouble
Teenagers often get into trouble, and having nothing to do after school and college doesn’t help. More and more they are either sitting around the parks, shops etc with their mates or playing on online games which is equally a rigid sitting position to adopt for long periods of time. At least with team sports there are practices twice a week, matches at weekends and team gatherings which keep them occupied. Having the boys attending many training sessions for very active sports such as ice-hockey and lacrosse means that they are unlikely to develop obesity and health conditions in later life. Not only are they staying out of trouble, they are maintaining a healthy weight and and active body.
6) Learning to lead
Not everyone playing in sports teams will learn to lead, and there will always be cases of those who prefer to stand in the background and let others take the lead. However, sport is a great tool for finding leaders who may not be aware that they possess the skills needed to become a natural leader. Eldest son was asked to captain his under 16s team several years ago. He was reluctant to do this at first. The coach saw leadership qualities in him during practices and thought he would be the perfect youngster to lead the team that season. For each game that he had to captain which involved pre-match talks with the team, liaising with the officials during the matches to giving a speech at the awards night I watched his confidence grow on a monthly basis. This transpired to his part-time employment where he has been given the role as mentor for any new staff. I’m not sure where he would have developed leadership qualities if it hadn’t been for his sports.
7) Sense of belonging to something
I think most people like belonging to something and sports are a fabulous way to introduce youngsters to a family away from their own. High school in particular can be a mine field at times and team sports cut across social divides and increases the number of adults and children that the youngster comes across on a weekly basis. With the increase in single parent families, in particular for boys it can also give them valuable male role models for the child to have. Being part of a team really does give kids a sense of belonging.
Such great memories are made from being part of a sports team. I remember away trips with the netball team at school and colleg, but can barely remember which teacher taught me Maths or Science. My sons have experienced many away trips, weekend aways and social gatherings with their team mates which have given them memories of the sports seasons.
Those are eight reasons that spring to my mind as to why I think that it’s important for boys to play team sports. I’m so glad that mine continue to play in their late teens and early twenties. Not only are they still happy and healthy, but they have developed a strong team and work ethos that might not have been there without this.
Perhaps those hundreds of miles travelled in road trips,hours spent watching training sessions, expensive subs and kit were really worth it all along.