Yes, Sports are Life

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I read a lot of blogs. I love to know how other parents look at the world, even if I disagree or wouldn’t quite see the same things. Lately I’ve seen several posts floating around from moms who wanted the world to know why their children don’t play sports. I get it. Sports can be dangerous. They can be time-consuming- scratch that, they can be life-consuming. Competition can be fierce. Hearts can be broken, but that’s exactly why my kids play sports, because those are the lessons of life.

Let’s be clear, it’s not just sports I believe in- it’s marching band, dance class, debate team, cheerleading, choir, violin lessons and chess club. Everything extra-curricular adds so much value to our lives, to our kids’ lives, but for the sake of this post, I’m talking about the weekends I spend on the baseball field in the spring and the football field in the fall, and with pumpkin season upon us, you can bet my car is a traveling locker full of shoulder pads and cleats.

I believed in sports from the beginning. My years as the band nerd taught me that being involved in something that requires teamwork is packed with irreplaceable experiences. I knew there were lessons about working hard, achieving milestones, winning, and yes, losing too- because sometimes we all lose, and we have to be ready to get back in the game.

Let me back up for one second. My motherhood is somewhat divided into two parts. Motherhood Part 1- I had this perfectly crafted life with children spaced equally four years apart and I was the over-achieving stay-at-home mom in charge of the PTO. Then there’s Motherhood Part 2 – I adopted four more children, and learned that nothing comes perfectly packaged and equally spaced in real life. Part two definitely shattered every preconception I’ve ever held to. My youngest children were packed with a past, and overcoming that damage has been the journey that will likely define my life. Which brings me back to to the car packed with sports equipment, in desperate need of Febreeze.

When faced with children who spun in circles and destroyed everything in their path, who were scared to pass out a hug or be put into a warm bath, I wasn’t sure how to get through the day, and then I signed them up for T’ball and football and suddenly I wasn’t alone. There was someone on the other end of molding this child, someone they could trust. For the first time, they learned what it meant to have a coach.

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I guess that’s where I just might be one of the luckiest people to ever take on the challenges I signed up for. I live in a small town, where the same dedicated individuals put their time on the line year after year to show these kids how to play the game they love. These people have been our village, and they have seen amazing transformations take place. If you wanna see your child do something more incredible than you imagined for them, get out there and sign them up.

Yes, your car will start to smell bad. You might miss a few nights of cooking and have to settle for some corn dogs. You might have to give up sleeping in on Saturday, but before that scares you off the field, think of the things only hands-on experience can teach. In the spirit of Top Tens, I’ll give you a little summary of my favorite life lessons found on the field.

  1. Never give up! We have a rule in our house, if you sign up, you finish the season. You show up at every practice and every game and you give it your all. On the flip side, if you no longer want to play, you don’t have to sign up the next year, but once you make a commitment you have to follow through with it to the very end. If you’re searching for the big fancy word to tie that lesson up I think I’d call it ACCOUNTABILITY!
  2. Last week I told Jayden six times to put his helmet in the car. He didn’t. He said he did, and I was watching his older brother rack up the tackles, so Monday rolled around and we were short a helmet. I dropped him off at practice anyway, where he met a coach who picked up that lost helmet. He had to run to get it back. Sometimes consequences are the only way children really learn RESPONSIBILITY.
  3. My 8th grader probably wasn’t born a natural athlete. He’s flat footed and always seemed more of the video game type. Then he fell in love with football. He only played one year of flag football and then sat out for five years,  but the coaches were happy to see him back in the game. He blew them away as a tight end, but it wasn’t the spot he dreamed of. When the season ended he started playing with his brothers everyday. He pushed himself to try new skills. He studied plays and then practiced them. Not only did he improve himself, but he helped his little brothers raise their games. Thursday he started as running back and linebacker. I’d call that PERSEVERANCE.
  4. I’ve already said that sports teach kids how to lose. Let’s face it, no one wins 100% of the time. You have to learn to accept defeat and move on without throwing your helmet, without slamming down your bat, without giving up completely. You have to take the set backs in life and when they hit you, you have to congratulate the one who rose above you.  Cheering someone else on when things didn’t go your way takes something special. I’d call that HUMILITY.
  5. Of course nothing feels as good as VICTORY! Yesterday we played a team that shouted ugly words. A parent asked if his cheerleaders could punch our cheerleaders in the face. One of our players was called a fat N-word. They threw McDonald’s trash out their windows as they carried their defeat back home. Our kids did not respond to the negativity. Instead they focused on the game. They played hard. They never gave up. This is what it means to be a real WINNER. Luckily the scoreboard was on our side, but truth be told it was their shining hearts that truly won the game. I’d call that HONOR.
  6. When you’re on the field, there’s a job to do, and you have to be able to believe that the guy next to you will have your back. He’ll do his part. He’ll block for you, he’ll get the ball for you, whatever needs to be done, you can count on him. It’s called TRUST.
  7. None of us know everything there is to know. We can all learn from someone else. It’s important to figure out what things help you and what things don’t apply to you. If you’re smart, learning never stops. Sometimes you have to take advice and you might not like what you hear. Even the pros, the record setters, and the Olympians do this everyday. On the field we call that being COACHABLE. Having a coachable kid is a blessing.
  8. A team is only as good as it’s weakest link. If your daughter goes to the mall with her friends and one of them steals a bottle of perfume, she’s going down too. Kids learn who’s got character, who to align with, how to build each other up and to hold each other accountable when they work as a team. There’s another fancy word big companies like to toss around, they call it SYNERGY, but what that really means is WORKING TOGETHER. No great accomplishment in the history of mankind is the effort of a single person. Nothing is more important than the ability to collaborate.
  9. Celebrate successes. Hard work pays off, but if you don’t stop and recognize what you’ve accomplished, you can’t enjoy life to it’s fullest. Just as you have to put failures behind you, you have to take a moment to look at what you’ve done. Then you set the next goal, because life is all about challenging yourself to get to the next level. It’s a delicate game we all play to keep the failures and successes in perspective, and it’s called BALANCE.
  10. Never take the world too seriously. You can win, you can lose, you can tie, but it’s playing the game itself that creates the joy. It is, after all, just a game. When you learn to take the ups with the downs and keep on smiling and pushing through, well that’s TRIUMPH.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     img_3595

Since taking on these lessons, I’ve watched 7 kids grow into amazing people. The one who thought she couldn’t dance was the Captain of the dance team. The one who wasn’t going to sign up is a starting player. The one who was scared to hug high-fives his whole team. They’ve learned structure, discipline, playing by the rules, and how to have fun. At the end of the day, I’d say sports turned them into normal kids- with more smiles than tears. So before you keep your kid out of the game, ask yourself, isn’t there something they’d love to play?

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