8 reasons why all boys should play team sports

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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’. 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

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.IMG_0003

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.

So here are  8 reasons why in my home we encourage team sports.

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.

4) Expertise

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.

8) Memories

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.

8 reasons why women should play team sports

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8 reasons why all women should play team sports

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’. 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.

The article resonated with me on two levels, firstly as a current member of a sports team and secondly, as a parent whose children play the fastest and possible most dangerous sport in the world. The latter I will blog about in a separate post.

I don’t play rugby but I do play netball so a lot of what Tesni described I can relate to, even at the grand old age of very early forties.  I’m often met with either criticism or slight patronism (is that a word)? It’s either ‘don’t you think you’re too old to be running around a netball court’ to ‘oh that’s nice, at your age’.

It’s a good job my skin is as hard as the soles on my netball trainers.

To those who think I’m too old to be playing netball. Who decides how old is too old?

Try telling my former team-mate who celebrated her sixtieth birthday last year that she shouldn’t be playing Centre every Wednesday night.  She still works full-time, she still plays sport, she’s healthy, she’s happy – perhaps there is a link to being active and living a normal life? I hope that I’m still able to run around when I’m sixty, enjoying myself and breathing in large breathes of life.  Instead of the alternative which is to put on weight, spend every evening sitting on my arse watching TV and playing Candy Crush.  The only thing that changes as you get older is it takes longer to recover from injuries and occasionally accidents can happen when you catch a ball mid-air and land with a bladder full…….or so I’m told. I’m not there just yet J

I also believe that being active and playing team sports can help you in the workplace.

Personally I think that the workplace would be a better place if there were more women playing team sports. Over the years I’ve had my fair share of working in competitive, back-stabbing environments, something which has subsided in later years – maybe it comes with age.

So here are my 8 reasons why I think that women should carry on playing team sports throughout their adult life.

1) Learn the importance of hard work

A netball match for the league that I play in is forty minutes long which is a do-able amount of time. We play four x 10 minute periods and each position on the court has their own area of responsibility and ownership of the court. Once the players are on the court they have to stay there unless they are injured. Once the whistle is blown it is down to each player to give it their all on court. This can be tough going. My position as Goal Defence means that if my squad are playing a better team I may end up being run ragged, and quite often playing against ladies who are half my age and often younger than that. It’s important to keep going even when we’re tired as I know that it just takes one tip off my hand, or a rebound on a shot and that my team can get possession and score from it. Training sessions are tough as they concentrate on cardio work, and improving ball handling skills and are often challenging as you really do get pushed out of your comfort zone.

2) Learn how to cope with losing

My perception is that the current generation of young people are mostly those whose school sports day was non-competitive. More of a team event in which they all won prizes and were told ‘it’s about the taking part that counts’ which is absolute bollocks in my opinion.  You work hard and win, and if you don’t then you were outplayed on the day, didn’t deserve the win so deal with it. Coping with losing is an important life skill, because you know what – there will be job interviews where someone out performs you, competitions that you don’t win and instead of being happy with ‘oh it doesn’t matter at least I tried’ you should feel fire in the belly and realise why you didn’t win. Why I didn’t get that job and what do I need to do next time to ensure that I do. Not wishing to sound too much of an idiot but I can cope with my team losing a match when we’ve been outplayed, I’ve no problem with that. What I struggled with last week was my team coming away with a draw after having a five goal lead into the final period and I was gutted. Problem was that other members of the team were satisfied with that result. Not me.

3) Learn the feeling of being part of a team378977_738329132565_1016327423_n

It’s a great feeling being part of a sports team. From the moment you put on your uniform and see your team-mates wearing the same colours, all with the same aim in mind is both incredible and proud.  For me, when I make an intercept, get a rebound, win a scrap around a loose ball I can always hear one of my team-mates encouraging me. You see we are all in it together and if one of us makes a bad pass then the rest of us will run our legs off to try and win back that ball into our attacking zone. If I see our attackers in the same space, or making a pass which gets intercepted each time, I will shout down the court to get them to change their tactics and vice versa. The skills that you learn on a sports team transfer into real life and the workplace too. I’ve worked in many places throughout my career and unfortunately I can report that there are a lot of insecure women in the workplace who talk behind their colleagues backs, and I’ve also come across several bosses not empowering their female employees. This infuriates me as it’s bloody tough being a woman in work. Maybe more job specifications should encourage example of team working through practical sporting experience. I would hire that woman straight away.

4) Being a good role model for own children

It’s a fact that children are currently spending more time on their games consoles, ipads and phones than they are participating in exercise. Being a parent of two boys it was always really important for me that my boys not only see their dad competing in his sports team, but also their mum. I didn’t want them growing up thinking that sport was just for men and that women cannot compete. In fact when they were much younger they were regular vocal supporters of me whilst I was playing, and to be honest I always tried that little bit harder when they were there. A lot of women will never know what that feels like and it’s a shame. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing your child yell ‘come on mum’.

5) Respect others

In netball there are often calls made by the umpire that I don’t agree with, but it’s the nature of playing sport. I’ve umpired matches where the player is being penalised and they swear, slam the ball down in temper or give me a dirty look. This behaviour really is not to be tolerated and is bad for the sport, but it happens. If the player draws attention to themselves the likelihood is that they will be penalised again for a minor incident. So, learning to deal with calls that you don’t agree with and just carrying on are part of team sport. This skills carries through to a workplace environment.  Occasionally at work I don’t agree with decisions that are made but I have to deal with them and respect the person making the decision. There are a lot of colleagues who are not so respectful in the workplace.

6) Learn to lead

This is a personal one to me but I thought I would put it in there anyway. Fifteen years ago I was shy, lacking self-confidence and very much the sheep of the pack in my team.  I would turn up for training/ the match and not really engage in conversation afterwards. I was the same at work too, always taking on the junior administrative work where I wasn’t really challenged and didn’t have to make decisions in case I was forced to speak in meetings about those decisions. I did what most people do and avoided any situations where the spot-light would be on me. Gradually through netball I ended up taking on a captains role which absolutely terrified me.  I nearly didn’t accept it as I would be forced to talk to my team-mates and try and lead them. Me, a leader? But I did it and  at the end of the season I won several trophies at the awards evening which delighted me. Maybe I could do this. I carried on with the captains role for a further season and then the club captain resigned. I decided to take on the reigns and I remember having the first AGM which I had to chair. I don’t think I ate for two days as the thought of having to speak in front of the entire club terrified me. But I did it. And for every scenario that I was faced with, I would feel the fear and do it, and it taught me  that everytime I did something that terrified me that I could push myself a little further. My work changed too and I ended up applying for more responsible jobs where I have to sit in meetings and often argue a decision that I’ve made. I attribute all of this to those opportunities that were given to me through netball.

7) Keep muscles mobile

Like I said earlier, one of my former team-mates was sixty last year and is still playing Centre every week so anyone who wants to argue that sport is bad for you, think again! What keeps me going is seeing people who are only a bit older than me with all sorts of ailments preventing them living an active life. I’m not naïve to think that this is the only attribute, there is also dietary, mobility and wider social issues to think of. But there are a lot of people who drain the NHS through laziness and poor eating habits which quite frankly could be avoided if they kept their limbs moving instead of sitting on the sofa every night watching Eastenders and Call the Midwife. It costs nothing to move about you don’t even need to join a gym as walking is free.

8) Sociable

The big reason why I enjoy my team sport is we have fun nights out and legendary weekends away playing in tournaments. My team have participated in karaoke, break out rooms, treasure hunts and pub quizzes. We’ve had netball tournaments in Wales and Skegness, playing with hangovers while the tea-totallers laughing at those throwing up off court. Great memories, great friends and a great sport.

So please ladies get involved in sports. Know what it’s like to have your team mate’s back, to be part of a group all wanting the same thing and don’t use your kids or your physical fitness as an excuse. There are Back to Netball sessions all across the country, or any sport that you fancy. I nearly signed up for a learn to play ice-hockey course last week…..nearly!