With three kids I’ve spent countless hours (like I couldn’t even begin to count them), watching and supporting my kids as they’ve participated in badminton, track and cross-country running, karate, distance swimming, dance, discus, basketball, soccer, hockey, t-ball, ball hockey, medley swimming, and many other sports and activities I’m probably forgetting.
Each and every sport has provided them with hours of fun and skill development. And whether they’ve been playing an individual sport or a team sport, they’ve made memories for themselves and me!
If your child chooses to play a team sport, they’ll reap several benefits that will translate from the playing field to many other aspects of their lives. Here are a few of the ways kids benefit from team sports.
Team sports are perfect for helping your child to learn about the importance of collaboration. In the quest to succeed, each team member must work with the others. With each player potentially having different strengths and weaknesses, kids learn to adapt their own play and work together. They also learn to share their emotions and help motivate each other.
When a group of kids spend a great deal of time together practicing, car pooling, playing, and striving for a common goal, the odds are that they’ll make some new friends. As the sport season progresses, kids often build trust and confidence in one another, leading to more meaningful bonds and relationships. Side note: the joy of new friendships from team sports can also translate to the families of the players. Some of my very best friends are moms from one of my kids’ hockey teams.
3. Leadership skills
Whether a coach designates a player as a captain or lets players take turns leading warm-up drills, kids on teams learn a lot about leadership. Kids learn to effectively listen to their teammates’ input, to keep each other focused, and to take ownership of their decisions. And as leaders, your kids will develop self-confidence and self-esteem, which they can use in various aspects of their lives. Some research shows this is especially true for girls.
Not to mention, kids will also learn about leadership from their coach. Observing the ways in which their coach imparts their direction and guidance will be unconsciously (or consciously) taken in by your kids.
4. Critical-thinking skills
Team sports are invaluable for developing a child’s critical-thinking skills. Problem-solving, strategizing, analyzing, observing, and creative thinking are all part of the strengths your kids will learn and develop. Whether it’s analyzing which teammates are open for a pass, observing an opponent’s strengths and working to outwit them, altering speed or footwork in different weather conditions or figuring out the best angle to shoot from, kids will learn and develop skills they can use not just with their team, but also in the classroom and in other areas of their lives.
5. Winning and losing together graciously
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. (And sometimes you lose a lot.) But learning how to take any outcome and react to it appropriately is always important. When shaking hands and sharing comments with opponents such as “good game,” after a win or loss, kids learn that everyone needs to be kind in any situation. After a loss, kids will also come to learn that it’s not appropriate or kind to blame others and that they need to be supportive of everyone on their team. And when their team wins, kids will learn through their own experiences of losses that it’s important to be empathetic towards the players on the other team.
6. Sport skill development
Kids learn multiple new movement skills and techniques from their coaches. They also learn from watching their teammates and working with them both in practice and in games. It’s great to see your child learning and improving their ability to skate, run, swim, kick, and all the other movement skills so important to an active and healthy life. And it’s a beautiful thing when your kid feels proud of all that they’re achieving!
7. Character-building through teamwork
When kids are part of a team, they learn much more than the skills needed to play a game. They also learn essential values to be people of good character. Kids discover and grow in kindness, humility, empathy, responsibility, respectfulness, accountability, loyalty, patience, and encouragement of others. With the guidance of coaches, family, and teammates, kids learn to show respect by showing up on time and listening to their coaches and teammates. They learn to encourage each other. They learn to be responsible for their own actions. They become patient with their teammates’ skill development. And so much more.
Communication is key to ensure teams are working together effectively. Your kid will come to learn the importance of listening to both their teammates and coaches. They’ll also learn how to ensure their thoughts are heard. Sometimes communication is spoken: coaching drills and chats in practices teach kids about strategy, players can call out that they’ll be catching a pop fly, etc. And sometimes communication can take the unspoken form of a gesture indicating that a player is open for a pass or a stick tap messaging that a penalty is over. Being able to listen, to speak, and to make sure they’re being heard are all skills kids will come to learn are so important for the success of their team.
Over the years, I’ve watched my kids make friends, learn to find the joy and value in both wins and losses, and develop confidence during their experiences. But most importantly, I’ve witnessed the fun they’ve had both on and off the field with their teams.