parents

“Why I want my kids to play sport.”

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For the last few Tuesday afternoons my six-year old son has cried. Big, fat, warm tears. He has sobbed his heart out with a gut wrenching sadness.

All because of the weather.

As the tears flowed down his face the rain flowed down outside.

Raining again, for the third Tuesday in a row, which meant to him just one thing.  No OzTag.

Like thousands of little (and big) boys and girls all across Australia sport is the world to my sons.

It’s quite a surprise as until I had boys I didn’t know my league from my union or my test matches from my T20. Two sons on, team sports have now become a dominant feature in my life.

While my younger son is naturally attracted to sports (and in fact carries a handball in each pocket of his school shorts on a daily basis) my eldest didn’t start off with quite that same enthusiasm. In fact he wasn’t keen on being a part of a team at all. For his first few games of under-six soccer instead of tears about the weather there were tears because he didn’t want to play.

Oh, to start with he was passionate, he tried on his stripy kit with joy and ran through the house in his big kid spikes. But my oldest is more like me, than his father, when it comes to sporting prowess. So when he showed little natural sporting talent – and the other boys on the team scored every goal, never letting him near the ball – he became dispirited.

importance of team sport
“For his first few games of under-six soccer instead of tears about the weather there were tears because he didn’t want to play.” Image via iStock.

He decided it wasn’t for him. He would refuse to go on the field and cry with anxiety when we talked of training and game schedules.

They aren’t my friends. I don’t know them anyway. I don’t wanna he would weep. I thought about letting him give it up.

Maybe soccer isn’t for him. Maybe it’s too dangerous anyway. Maybe he should stick to gentler sports.  Maybe he’s not a team sport kinda kid.

But then I’d look around at the ten boys at their camaraderie and joy and I decided to stick to my guns.

I refused to let him quit.

It was hard at first, he didn’t want to go, he felt inadequate, unable and it would make me question myself. I would wonder if I was doing the right thing, if he would be okay, if he would gain his confidence.

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Each week at training he would reluctantly join in, each week more and more. He began to like it, running wild and sweaty with the other boys, the joy of kicking a ball and having the team cheer for you. The thrill of being a part of something.

And then an amazing thing happened.

He made friends.

importance of team sport
“I refused to let him quit.” Image via iStock.

Half way through the season something clicked. Suddenly he was hooked. He just wanted to be with his mates, playing, joking, laughing.

During that first season he never scored a goal (and honestly hasn’t kicked many in the two seasons since) but that doesn’t matter to him, he was having fun.

My son gained so much from that first team – and then the one a year after, and third a year after that. Oh and the cricket team he joined and the OzTag team he and his younger brother now also do.

Sports psychology author Jim Taylor says the brilliance of team sports for children is the way they help kids build confidence. They develop focus, and teach kids about emotional control.

“Kids learn essential life skills, such as hard work, patience, persistence, and how to respond positively to setbacks and failure,” Taylor says.

For my son, team sports taught him not to give up, they taught him empathy and gave him confidence.

It taught him to run as fast as he could and to get back up if he fell over (and taught me not to run straight to him and pick him up).

It taught him perseverance and determination and that giving something a red-hot go pays off in the end.

But most of all it taught him about friends and just how much fun hanging out with your mates on a sunny Saturday morning can be.

What has your child learned from sport?

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