My mind started to change when my children got to high school. My older son played youth soccer, and he decided to play high school soccer in the fall. He also went out for tennis in the spring, and he fell in love with tennis. I did not encourage him to play sports, but I saw what it did for him.
Now, I am sold. I was reminded of the value of sports over the weekend when I attended the girls’ basketball game on Saturday. The girls’ team was playing Lexington. The final score was a win for the Lady Truckers by a single point. I was going to stay for just a little while, to watch some of my students who are on the team. But the game was so intense that I stayed till the end. The girls were focused, skillful, and trying so hard: the game was fast-paced, well coached, and enjoyable. And they won!
But, win or lose, sports are good for students and teach just as much as academic subjects do. Here are some of the benefits of sports:
1. Quick thinking. Sports move quickly. For example, in basketball: Should a player shoot or pass the ball? And if she should pass it, which teammate is open? These are split second decisions that affect the score — good exercise for the brain.
2. Teamwork: On a team, the players must rely on each other. They spend lots of time together, not just during games but at practices as well. On most teams, there is a mix of ages and classes, so students get to meet players from other grades. Friendships form. Those who go out for a fall sport before the start of freshman year get to meet some upperclassmen and feel more comfortable about starting high school.
3. Effort: Sometimes when watching a sporting event, I wish the students would show the same motivation in the classroom that they show on the playing field. Athletes learn to push themselves and try their hardest — not for a grade, but for the team, for the coach, and for the joy of playing.
4. To keep going, despite drawbacks: Maybe the referee made a call that the player thinks is unfair. Maybe the player missed a shot. It’s OK – keep going. Maybe your team lost, or even loses every time. It’s OK — keep going. This is an important life lesson — not to dwell on mistakes and failure, but to persevere.
5. Pride: Pride in one’s accomplishments. After the girls’ basketball game, I saw pride on the faces of the players. They won, but even if they had lost, they played well. I know there was pride on the faces of the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends who had come to watch them. And there was pride on the face of their teacher -- my face. I got to see them not just in the classroom but in a different light, a good light.
Sports are not for everyone. There are cruelties in sports (and in life) — being cut from the team because you’re not good enough, mean teammates, bad coaches, being blamed for making mistakes. But the good outweighs the bad.
Me? I lack speed and coordination and I don’t play a sport. But I’m a good spectator. And I sure was proud of my students on Saturday.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]