Sport:Training for the Game of Life

I’m soooo confused.

I thought my family would be inspired by the Olympics. Instead, they have become T.V. toads. Recently, exercise has consisted of wrestling for control of the channel changer or sprinting for snacks during the commercials.

Ironic isn’t it? Many have been so busy watching television coverage of the Olympics they haven’t had time to “just do it” any more.

I for one am crossing my fingers hoping that with the London Games being over, my family will be motivated to let their own games begin.

Sports are important—not just for the health benefits (that would be like saying you eat because you want to exercise your jaws) but also because they teach important life lessons.

My first involvement with competitive sports began with swimming. At first I dreaded just getting into the water (why is it that municipal pools always seem to have water imported from the Arctic?).

However, it didn’t take me long to learn it was easiest if I simply took a deep breath and dove right in. It is a philosophy that is transferable to real life and has been one I’ve learned to apply. Sport taught me not to procrastinate, having learned that when faced with a challenging task, the best approach is just to dive or jump right in.

Swimming also taught me that even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it certainly does lead to improvement. Most importantly, I grasped the important connection between hard work and success.

As a teenager getting involved with our school volleyball team taught me about the importance of goal setting and team play. I learned firsthand how a team with a vision and a lot of heart and enthusiasm can win—even when paired against a team with more skill and experience. And, when we didn’t win, I learned how to deal with disappointment and move on.

My next and most significant sport involvement was with competitive track and field. I can vividly recall the exact moment when I decided to get serious about running. I was sixteen years old, heading home late one fall night after visiting a friend. Startled by what I thought were stealthy footsteps behind me, I started running. Outdistancing my follower, I kept running—feeling strong, healthy, and alive. It was a heady feeling for a teenager and one I knew I wanted to experience again.

I started training seriously, learning how to work hard and dig deep. I learned discipline and how to run through what was often referred to as the “wall of pain” and find reserves I didn’t know I had. I learned that even when I was sure I couldn’t possibly bear up—I could and did. I won a number of major competitions and learned along the way that anything is possible if you believe.

While the physical literacy delivered by sports is readily apparent, what is less apparent is their impact on strategic thinking and math skills. Students develop strategic thinking as they figure out plays and the best way to get around a player or score a goal. Even math skills are used to calculate scores and statistics.

As research supports, and was apparent for me, involvement in sports also led to an increase in confidence, self-esteem, and feelings of success. In addition to providing fun and friends, studies also show that participation in sport means kids are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to take drugs, smoke, or become pregnant as teens. 

So, while the Olympics continues to give us the opportunity to witness excellence, as well as to promote friendship among nations and celebrate our shared humanity, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it is also a message about participating and doing the best we can. Since ultimately that is what life is about, we need to embrace the importance of sport in providing us with a key foundation and training for the game of life.

Posted on 08-12-12

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