What Is The Real Value of Sport To Our Children?

With one teenager finishing last term with a hockey tour and one starting this term with a cricket tour, I am reminded of the value of sport in my teens' lives not only from the obvious perspective of benefiting from exercise, but also more universally in helping to prepare them for life beyond the playground.

Like many other parents I have stood on my fair share of pitches, but despite the sometimes untold agony of getting them up on time, the arguments about lost kit, the moaning about unfair referees and umpires plus the occasional tears at not being selected, I believe it has been worth every minute and equipped them with some valuable life lessons.

Children do not enter this world "naturally" sporty, it requires effort from us as parents to introduce them to exercise and start shaping their attitude to physical activity.   This starts as early as the toddler years with the interminable games of "catch" and trips to the playground in all weathers - albeit as an underhand means of ensuring our children are completely exhausted in time for bed.

The primary school years, however, are when it starts in earnest.  School sports days sort the wheat from the chaff on the athletics track among the children and the parents, in a bid for the unspoken but cherished title of  "most sporty family".  It is also the first time that our children are chosen for teams based on their ability and start to understand the value of healthy competition, because let's face it competitive environments are everywhere in life.

Then there is the scrum for places at local sporting clubs, some of which can involve a wait of several years for a space to come free.

Once your child has their place and has been accepted into the inner sanctum of the local sporting elite, even if they absolutely hate it, throw regular hissy fits on the field or are just down right rubbish, you stay put, resolute in the belief that as well as getting them out of the house, it is a learning ground for those all important life skills of teamwork, leadership, responsibility, discipline, coping with failure and last but not least "strategic thinking".

Yes who would have thought sport could be credited with providing our offspring with such a vast array of cognitive functions?

Surely there was an age when sport's primary purpose was enjoyment at being active, but that is certainly not the case now.  Being sporty is a badge to be worn with pride and demonstrates a prowess unattainable to any other group theatrical or musical, despite all requiring many of the same skill sets of co-operation, stamina, flexibility and dedication.

Woe betide you if are one of those parents on the sports field that dares to say the immortal words to your child that it's not about the "winning" but the "taking part". This suggests a lack of resilience and commitment and will provoke an array of reactions from eye rolling and tutting to full on ostracization.

In what other extra curricular activity does your child get exposed to such open criticism?

Despite my glibness though, I confess to being one of those parents who champions the importance of sport and fall genuinely into the camp of mums who just want my children to "take part".

As a fair weather exerciser I am not a tiger mum by any stretch of the imagination, but over the years I have carefully cajoled and manipulated my teens from an early age into sporting positions they may not naturally have gravitated towards themselves.

I signed them up for local sporting clubs before I knew if they were interested or even capable.  I offered my services when needed to serve tea and bake cakes for tournaments (admittedly under duress) and have even flown the flag of loud supporter on occasions, if sometimes for the opposing team!

Equally though I have stood and cringed on the sidelines as my children made innumerable mistakes, let down the team and themselves and of course embarrassed me!  It is all part of life's rich parenting tapestry.

But regardless of all this I gritted my teeth, rose above it and reassured them that "at least they tried their best", only to go home, drink copious glasses of wine and rant to my husband.

My husband however is the true champion, investing true blood, sweat and tears into our children's sporting lives.  He has patiently taught Teen 1 how to handle a rugby ball and coached at his local club for years. He has also spent hours of his life he will never get back teaching him how to bowl and has regularly run training sessions for Teen 2's hockey club.  This is before we even count the hours of driving,  sometimes half way across the South of England to get them to matches or to pick them up, before returning home and doing a quick turnaround to catch a plane - all whilst I just prepare lunch!

From my view on the sideline though, I think that what sport does best for children is break down barriers and open up opportunities.

Our local sports clubs are full of children from different backgrounds and with a range of abilities and the same is true at my teens' schools.  Diversity is essential to all walks of life but a love of sport unifies people in a way that nothing else can.

Sport England has launched its own series of initiatives Towards An Active Nation to increase the number of people getting active in response to the Government's own Sporting Future strategy.

Its vision is that everyone in England regardless of age, background or ability feels able to take part in sport and a significant part of this is to increase the proportion of young people (11-18) who have a positive attitude to sport and being active.

At secondary school there is no doubt that it is all far more competitive as everyone jostles for a place in the 1st and 2nd team and the chance to represent their school and perhaps earn a much coveted place on a sports tour.  It is easy for children to drop out of exercise during this period.  The challenge at this stage as Sport England recognises is to keep our children doing sport and make exercise a natural part of their life to keep them active well into the future.

Watching my own children over the years I can resolutely say that they have grown from sports shy individuals to competent young players who genuinely get a buzz from being part of a team and being active. What sport does really well is give children a sense of worth, bring them together and give them a common purpose. Your prowess in the classroom or the playground is irrelevant to what happens on the sports field.

Sport encourages children to move outside their comfort zone and mix with others they would maybe not normally interact with.  In this ever changing and reactive world this is surely a good thing, irrespective of ability.

So as I drove my eldest and his mates to their first pre-season training cricket match and listened to their "bants" I was reminded of identical circumstances this time last year.  My husband away on business and a car full of jesting teenage boys with their "that's so jokes" comments,  looking forward to a season's cricket amidst the pressure of their exams.

It reminded me that actually the real value of sport to our children is not the cognitive strategic skills they come away with but the comaraderie, the genuine enjoyment, the escapism from the pressure of performing in the classroom and most importantly of all, the memories of when they got it wrong as well as right, which are truly irreplaceable.  After all life is built on memories, they stay with us forever and hold us all together.

 

What do you think about the role of sport for our children?  Does sport play a big part in your lives?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this article please give it a share. 

 

 

 

Tammymum diaryofanimperfectmum Mummy Times Two Pink Pear Bear

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12 Comments

  1. April 24, 2017 / 4:48 pm

    My son is football mad and our weekends revolve around watching his matches and he trains three times during the week. It’s so important to teach our children the values of sport and for as long as he enjoys it, I will encourage him whole heartedly. #bigpinklink
    five little doves recently posted…Things I want my sons to knowMy Profile

    • April 25, 2017 / 8:54 am

      Oh wow Laura he is committed and so are you! I have had to really nag my teens over the years sometimes, particularly when it is snowing, or pouring with rain but once out the comaraderie and sense of achievement is huge. #bigpinklink

  2. April 24, 2017 / 1:57 pm

    I love this article. We are just getting into the world of competative , travel sports with the two older girls. So strange to be the parent of the sporty now

    #bigpinklink

    • April 25, 2017 / 8:52 am

      Once you start on that path it is difficult to get off! It is also great for the parental social side too! Thanks for commenting. #bigpinklink

  3. April 23, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    Oh this is fab. I think sport and sporting activities are vital for children of all ages. I hadn’t really thought enough about how it influencing and impacting my toddlers though and perhaps that is something I should be working a bit conscientiously on that one. Either way ylu have summed it up brilliantly at the end and is the crux of why sport and exercise is so brilliant. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

    • April 25, 2017 / 8:51 am

      When they are young it is great for exhausting them and it is definitely the time when it is not so much about performing at their best. We are lucky to be surrounded by commons and loads of clubs – probably too many to be honest that you almost feel compelled to take part. Thanks for hosting. #familyfun

  4. April 22, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    I nodded throughout this post…..my children love their sport…..although not cricket funnily! I am a hockey widow as both teens play and hubbie plays, coaches and refs. My son is also obsessed with rugby too. I love sport and swim, ski and walk but my team game days are over. I think sport is important for physical and mental health and it’s also fun! #familyfunlinky

    • April 25, 2017 / 8:49 am

      Ha ha I think cricket is definitely an acquired taste. To be honest even though it is my son’s main sport I struggle to watch a complete game although I love the thrill of watching him get a wicket. It sounds like your whole family is sports mad. I think half the battle is won if you see your parents participating and enjoying it too. Thanks for commenting #familyfunlinky

  5. April 20, 2017 / 6:58 pm

    Sport encourages children to move outside their comfort zone and mix with others they would maybe not normally interact with.
    This is the key for me. My youngest took up football last year and it has made a huge difference to his confidence and generally well being. Sport is for the mind not only the body. Great post! 🌟 Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉
    Imperfect Mum recently posted…#a blogging good time #45My Profile

    • April 25, 2017 / 8:47 am

      Oh Catie I agree and boys do need exercise more than girls for sure – they thrive on running around and being active but you are also right the benefits to the mind are immense. I may hate the pain of my own exercise sometimes but I feel so much better afterwards. Thanks for hosting and commenting. #ablogginggoodtime

  6. April 20, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    Oh my word our husbands are cut from the same cloth – rugby and cricket coach over here too! I love the team spirit of sport My son was so poorly last term that he couldn’t be at school – it wasn’t the missing academic that bothered me but the not being part of the rugby team – that is where you see the children thrive and grow. He went back to school yesterday and came home buzzing about the cricket match – that ability to have something away from the academics is so important so I wholeheartedly agree with sport being such an important part of a child’s development #ablogginggoodtime
    justsayingmum recently posted…Social Media and Our ChildrenMy Profile

    • April 25, 2017 / 8:45 am

      Oh Helen I hope your son is on the mend now. On the first day of the summer term in Year 9 my son headed off to college with his cricket bag and 4 hours later was in hospital with a broken leg – it was nasty – broken in 3 places. Not only did he miss out on a term’s cricket but as a result he couldn’t play rugby at the start of the season and lost his place in the 1st team. I have never seen him so dejected not only from literally spending 6 months not being able to play any sport but then realising his rugby life was not going to be the same again. He has since put all his energy into cricket and probably that is a blessing to be honest! Boys are like dogs they need exercise! My daughter loves it but can manage without it but not my son. He goes loopy. I love soaking up his euphoria too just like you and yours. Here’s hoping for a successful season for your son! Thanks for commenting my dear. #ablogginggoodtime

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