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Sports teach children many valuable lessons

I grew up in a house full of girls and not a lot of money. Sports just weren't part of the picture. I was never on an organized team. My husband, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. His family seemed to live, eat and breathe team sports.

Flash forward a couple of decades, and we have three kids involved in a variety of school and travel sports. Sometimes, the schedule gets absolutely crazy, and we discuss (OK, I argue) whether it is all worth it. My husband's stock answer is that sports teach the kids "valuable lessons." I decided to see if he is right and have been thinking of some of the lessons they've been learning lately.

Last month, my daughter's school basketball team was losing with only a few minutes left and came back to tie it up. With three seconds remaining on the clock, her teammate put in the game winner. I guess my daughter learned a little something about not giving up that day.

My oldest son had a hockey game and didn't play that well. Turns out he had chicken wings the night before and stayed up late at the hotel. I think he learned more about the importance of nutrition and sleep that day than he did from all of my lectures.

Last summer, my son's baseball team was in a big tournament game out of the area. It was the first game of the season for one player who had been injured. He had come with another family, but was missing his mom terribly. He called her, she dropped everything and came, and he hit his first-ever home run right after she arrived. There wasn't a dry eye in the stands. We all experienced the importance of family, and learned that sometimes in life, dreams do come true.

My daughter was on a team where she never sat while some girls didn't get to play. She learned that being on the winning end of something wrong doesn't make it right.

My son played against a team that had a parent loudly encouraging his son to injure other players. He learned that not everyone in life shares our values, but that doesn't give you the right to treat someone in any way other than how you want to be treated.

My youngest son recently had to leave the team that he has been a part of for eight years. He is learning that change is the one constant in life, and that sometimes when one door closes, an even better one opens for you. He also learned a bit about what is truly important in life, which isn't trophies and rankings.

All three have learned that just because someone is a teammate, coach, captain or parent, that doesn't make him a role model. We've had numerous teachable moments to explain to the children that they are accountable for their own actions, and should never follow someone down the wrong path.

Although I may hate to admit it, I guess my husband is right. My children have learned to win and lose with grace, that sometimes they have to "take one for the team," that true friends are your friends no matter what team you're on, that your morals shouldn't be left in the locker room, that hard work and dedication will pay off, that you have to keep your head up and watch your back, and that sometimes you have to play through the pain and sometimes you have to know when to stop. Sounds a lot like what they'll be learning in life.

Susan Steffan, a professor at a local college, lives in Clarence with her husband and three children.