Youth Sports: Training Our Kids for Life
Kids today are far more sedentary than ever, which can lead to a number of negative issues related to mental and physical well-being. Youth sports can provide a safe and healthy avenue to learn valuable skills necessary for success in and out of sports. The mission of the Jerry Smith Coaching for Life Academy is to make life skill development a top priority in youth sports. Following are just some of the life skills that are so important to youth development.
Healthy Habits and Benefits-related Exercise
Most kids need help with diet and nutrition, but the bigger problem seems to be a lack of exercise. Kids love to play, and playing a game or sport is a wonderful way to get physical exercise without it seeming like a chore. Obviously, some sports offer more of a cardiovascular workout than others, but any time we can get kids out of the house and away from video games and the television, it’s a win. Through youth sports, kids can learn about stretching, running, warmup, cooldown, and overall physical fitness. For many kids this can lead to a lifelong appreciation of the benefits of exercise. Feeling healthy and fit can lead to better sleep and better decisions, as well as increased confidence.
Introduction to Competition
For the most part—in sports and in life—winning is a good thing. To win, so many things have to go right. However, since we cannot control winning, we need to place the emphasis on the areas we can control and learn to live with the outcome, win or lose. Kids need to learn they can control their preparation, focus, effort, and emotions. They need to learn to be a gracious winner, learn to accept losing without blaming others, learn to keep their composure during competition, and learn how to congratulate opponents.
Learning to play a sport and learning to play it well is a process of trial and error where you can expect many successes and failures. Learning new things can be scary for anyone, especially for kids. It’s important to learn that failure and making mistakes is a necessary part of the growing process. Failing is not what holds us back; it’s the lack of trying that holds us back. Instilling a growth mindset in our youth will be critical to their future success.
Leadership and Followership
Physical games certainly provide many opportunities for leadership and followership. However, the best opportunities for leading and following often happen before and after the game. During these times players can “coach” each other by leading the warmup, cooldown, and closing remarks. Followership skills can also develop during these times. Without followership we would have anarchy. Watch how this first follower transforms a lone “nut” into a leader. We need to celebrate followership as much as leadership. In my experience coaching youth sports, this is one of the most challenging concepts to teach.
We need to have empathy for our teammates, officials, and opponents by accepting bad breaks and mistakes. I love the signs posted at many Little League fields trying to get the parents and fans to remember their roles in the game. In this video, a young Portugal soccer fan is comforting an adult fan from the opposing team after Portugal’s recent European Championship victory over France.
Youth sports can provide a wonderful and healthy way to learn life skills as long as the right things are being emphasized by the kids, and especially by the adults involved with the team.