The 8 Essential Life Lessons in Youth Sports

At the outset I need to make something crystal clear. I’m not a perfect parent. I screw up all the time and I try my best to learn from it. Just like you, I am a human being. I tell my kids that parents and adults make mistakes all the time. And they do. So take this article with a grain of salt. Keep what you want, and throw away what you don’t.

That being said, I’ve been paying attention to the topic of youth sports for many years. I pay attention to my own mistakes, and my own mistaken beliefs. I also have an education in psychology including child psychology that I’ve combined with my own observations and experiences to make sense out of the sometimes chaotic topic of youth sports. But I’m nowhere near perfect. I am constantly trying to learn from myself, my family, other parents and coaches. And today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned so far.

Parents these days can be absolutely nuts about youth sports. It happens everywhere. Parents are aggressively fighting with coaches. Coaches are screaming and swearing at young kids. Parents are fighting other parents in the stands and yelling at referees. There are even lunatics throughout the country, maybe in your hometown, threatening the lives of coaches and fist fighting coaches in the presence of children. Quite frankly, it’s a joke.

You see as human beings, kids are in a much different place than adults. They’re still innocent in their thinking for the most part. They’re still motivated by their own desires and wishes and don’t understand quite yet what it means to bask in the reflected glory of another. Adults are experts in this as we know.

Instead of starting drama over your own interests and ignoring your kid’s, maybe you should open your eyes a bit. Open your eyes and tone it down a notch. If you do, you’ll see there are many great lessons you can teach your son or daughter through youth sports. And face it, as a parent, it is your duty to teach your child. So why not teach them the various lessons about life that are prevalent youth sports. Here are the 8 essential lessons children and teens should be learning through youth sports:

  1. The Value of Competition — Let’s face it. The world is an extremely competitive place. Regardless of what your child decides to do with his/her life, they’re going to have to know how to compete to get anywhere. True, there are other great ways to learn this, but youth sports can be a very fulfilling way to do it.
  2. Experience Teamwork — In life and in business, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Our children are going to need to know the power of teamwork and how to rely on others to achieve their goals.
  3. The Fun of Winning — I know, I know, many say and teach that winning isn’t important. It is politically correct in today’s world to pass it off as not important, and to pitch the idea that everyone wins. However, in life, that’s simply not true. And it is important to teach our children that the desire to win is ok. It should be learned and felt by our kids because they can accomplish many things down the road using that desire.
  4. Overcoming a Loss — Like Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit.” There are more failures in life than there are successes. A failure should be a mere learning experience and fuel for the fire of wanting success. It is great for your child to learn how to lose at a young age, and how to not want to accept it.
  5. Preparation and Dedication — Unless your child is an absolute freak athlete, they’re going to need to prepare and be dedicated to be successful. To get anywhere in life, whether it be school, business, or organizational, you’re going to need to know the importance of preparation and the magic of dedication. Hard work pays off.
  6. The Power of Being Assertive — Look, your kid might not want the ball. And you shouldn’t fight the coach because of it. But it is ok to try to coach your kid about being assertive. Not because they need the limelight in the 9u hoops game, but because assertiveness is a great quality for them to have later in life.
  7. The Importance of Gratitude — Gratitude is one of the most important and most powerful human qualities for a child (and adult) to have. Teach your kids about gratitude. They should be thankful that you’re putting so much time into their activities. They shouldn’t feel guilty or bad about it. They should feel thankful and that should make them feel great! There are many things they can feel gratitude for. Teach them about it. Teach them to say ‘thank you’ and mean it.
  8. Attitude is Everything — One of the only things you can control in life is your attitude. You have complete control over that. And no one, I mean NO ONE wants to be around someone with a horrible attitude. The playing field is a great place to teach your child about an attitude that will empower them through the rest of their life.

Like I said, I’m no expert. And I’m not here to preach and judge. But, I’ve tried to learn as much as possible on this topic through my years of coaching, watching and generally being a part of youth sport. To be frank, most of it I’ve learned from my own failures and mistakes as a parent, and my own desire to try to improve. But at the end of the day, there are lessons to be learned. And remember, kids learn a lot more from watching what you do, than they do from listening to what you say.