As someone who has been a competitive athlete for the majority of my life, I deeply understand the value of sports and their potential to shape people from a young age. Becoming an athlete builds character and offers countless lessons that end up guiding kids for the rest of their lives. Although there are many things one might learn from playing sports, I would like to highlight a few I feel are most essential.
1. The Importance of a Community
In many sports, like track and skiing, most of the competing is done alone. I have always played team sports, so the idea of competing in an individual event makes me beyond nervous. You can’t blame your mistakes on the ref, your coach, or your teammates… the only person controlling your fate is you.
What I’ve grown to love about the personal accountability aspect of individual sports is that there is always a community of people pushing me to be better. My teammates, while they are my competition, set goals for me which I strive to reach each day. Between training and traveling together, I spend so much of my time with my team. Because of the community we have built, they have become my second family.
2. How to Lose with Grace
One of the hardest parts about being competitive is losing. It’s devastating to not get your desired results after all the hard work you put into training. Being and athlete teaches you how to handle an upsetting situation with poise. Losing can often give you a sense of respect for the competition, and it should always push you to be better, not to give up. Losing with grace means to admire someone else’s talent without questioning your own, and that is a skill many athletes struggle to master.
Being a competitive athlete is hard work. Injury can also be a big part of playing sports, and I know from personal experience that it can be hard to come back to the game after getting hurt. Whether it be the fear of getting hurt again, or the inability to play through the pain, injuries can often push athletes to the point of quitting. What’s even harder to face is when fun practices turn to hard practices, full of conditioning and strength training. It’s those tough days (the ones that make you want to throw up) that in the end will make or break you as an athlete. However, if you can commit to giving 110% of your effort everyday, no matter how hard, you will rise above everyone else.
Sport Guides Life
If you are a parent thinking about signing your kid up to play any sport, it is essential to keep in mind that even from a young age it’s important to experience the three lessons I described above. Learning the importance of community and teamwork in sport will give your child a lifetime of leadership skills they can’t learn anywhere else. Additionally, allowing kids to experience the pain and sadness after losing a competition will only push them to be better. Lastly, it is crucial that kids learn to commit to something and stick with it, even when it gets tough. Being an athlete requires dedication, drive, and discipline. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it for the thrill of the game.
Skylar Jackenthal is an active member of the Live Like Sam team.