Why your kids should play team sports

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If you want your kids to grow up to be confident, well-adjusted adults, then team sports can be part of the solution.

‘When you play a team sport you learn that it doesn’t just come down to the best player’, says Ross Morrison, a sports expert with the NSW Department of Education and Communities. ‘It comes down to working as a team, accepting decisions and understanding that people have different abilities’. Playing a team sport provides kids with important lessons in personal values, Ross says. ‘Kids learn that things aren’t going to go their way all the time, and that they need to respect their peers as well as referees and sports officials’. Team sports can also be good for a child’s mental health. Children who play team sports learn how to be more resilient when presented with a setback, and are less likely to feel isolated, Ross says.

With so much research emphasising the benefits of getting more exercise rather than being a couch potato, knowing your kid is involved in team sports can help put you mind at ease. ‘It’s satisfying for parents to know that their kids are getting fit and healthy, instead of just playing electronic games or watching television’, says David Haggart, head teacher of PDHPE at South Sydney High School. ‘Society puts a lot of pressure on kids to be more academic’, he says. ‘But there is evidence to suggest that physical activity might increase numeracy and literacy. It’s like that old adage, ‘a healthy body, a healthy mind’. These experiences can influence them throughout their lives such as when it comes to working for a boss, or respecting the police or other authority figures.

A 2011 study from Queen’s University in Canada found playing sport can help children develop ‘citizenship’ qualities they will retain throughout their lives. The researchers also found kids who play team sports are more likely to show initiative and be able to call on internal sources of motivation than those who don’t.

It seems it’s not only the kids who reap the benefits of playing sport. While mums and dads might groan as they stand on the muddy sidelines at the crack of dawn, subliminally they could well be building up their own self-esteem and confidence – as they become part of the ‘parent team’ – and improving their marriage along the way. US research into parents of sport-playing kids found while children are making friends and learning to work in groups, parents are practising the same behaviours on the sidelines. It also found spousal communication improved as mums and dads negotiated logistics for transporting their kids and attending practices and games, while relationships between parent and child became closer as the sport gave them something to talk about.

I have three kids – Declan 14, Katy 11, and Ashy 9. Each of our kids have different personalities and behaviours, to the point where I’m convinced that the argument of ‘nature or nurture’ is not an either/or proposition. They each have their likes and dislikes (although Ashy does have a habit of not eating anything her big brother won’t eat!).

One of the things we have made common to all of their upbringing is team sports. For us, it doesn’t matter what the sport is, as long as it involves a team. The three that we still play are soccer, netball, and basketball, but we’ve tried many more. Each year we let our kids pick what they want to play, as long as it’s a team sport. They can play other sports if they like, but they must have at least one team sport.

We encourage our kids to play school sports, and also community sports. This encourages them to build a wider social circle. It also has helped our son to maintain friendships with his mates from primary school, even though he now goes to high school in a different suburb.

Playing in a team has taught our kids many things:

  • How to be part of a team, and work with others
  • How to deal with different personalities, and be around people you don’t necessarily like
  • How having a common interest can make it easier to start conversations and make new friends
  • How you can always improve at something by effort
  • How being better or worse at a sport does not make you a better or worse person
  • How to be gracious, in victory and defeat
  • Oh yeah, and getting some regular physical exercise is a also a big plus

During the sporting season, trying to plan a catch up with friends, for a BBQ on the weekend, takes weeks of forward planning and calendar synching, or a lot of rain. Our weekends are a blur of taking kids to and from sporting events. Now the season is over and summer is here, it’s much more chilled as we enjoy hanging at the beach.
What sports are your kids playing? Got some funny stories you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear them. Share your comments in the ‘Leave a reply’ section below.

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