The Many Benefits of Youth Sports
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden
Last night we had a youth 2nd-grade football game. In the first half, we were down 3 touchdowns. Yes, we were bummed. We had trouble pulling flags, our team had issues running our plays, and we were maybe a little hyped up. However, we turned it around in the second half and eventually won the game. After the game, the post-game speech was not about the win. It was about the resilience we showed, how our preparation paid off, and how we never gave up. We spoke for 15 minutes about the life lesson and the benefit of playing youth sports taught these young men.
Yes, getting the come-from-behind win was great, but the lessons that we, including the coaches, learned as a team were more valuable than any win. We as a coaching staff were able to teach these kids something super valuable.
For the last 8 plus years I have coached hundreds of kids in baseball, football, basketball, and soccer. Never once was the team focused solely on winning every game. If you have ever coached a youth sports team, you know that 50% of the team or more is there because they are competitive and want to win. The other 50% are there because their parents made them, they wanted to hang out with their friends, or whatever other reason you can think of.
Youth sports must be about more than just winning games, it has to be about doing your best and becoming a better person. Teaching the life lessons that drive us into adulthood.
Today, let’s chat about the many benefits of youth sports.
Improved Health and Wellness
I have always heard about the benefits of playing youth sports from the life lessons approach, and we will get there. We are going to talk about some of the benefits of youth sports that many of us overlook because these benefits are just as important.
It is your job as a youth sports coach to encourage every kid on the team to stove to do their best. The truth of the matter is that most kids are going to hear how they are not good enough, either from their parents, teachers, or friends. You have an opportunity to help these kids build their confidence and self-esteem by encouraging improvement.
One of my favorite things to do is reward the kids for improvement and hard work, not scoring goals, throwing touchdowns, or hitting home runs. I find that the kids that are not the most athletic, need the most encouragement and it is my job to help give them this.
A few weeks before writing this post I had a girl on a kindergarten soccer team score a goal in our net. Her face was so excited because it was the first time she had scored a goal and she had been trying so hard all season. Instead of telling her that it was the wrong goal, we as a team all celebrated her accomplishment. The smile on her face was worth it.
Since this time, she has become more confident in her game, loves the game, and has become one of the better finishers (in the right net) on the team. That one moment could have changed her perspective on the game. Her self-esteem has skyrocketed and this is what we as coaches should be promoting. Not putting our kids down for scoring the wrong goal. Life is hard on these kids, we need to be there for them.
As a youth sports coach, it is important to ensure that you are creating an environment that encourages kids to try hard. Remember, 99.9% of the kids you coach will not become professional athletes.
Research shows that active kids are 1/10 as likely to be overweight. Other research has found that children that play sports are slightly more likely to have a healthier BMI than those that do not play sports. This should be no surprise because we all know that physical activity is good for your body.
However, it is not about the weight of the kids that are playing sports. To me, it is about helping build and maintain healthier bones, muscles, and joints. When you play sports as a kid, you learn about the importance of physical activity. Many times, not all the time, this habit of caring for your body follows us into adulthood.
As a coach, it is important to me that my athletes are in good shape. When they are super young, it is not a big deal. However, as they get older we are not fighting against video games, social media, and other forms of entertainment. The more we can get the kids out and learn about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, the better these future champions will be in the long run.
Here is the kicker. When kids are given the choice, kids would rather play sports than exercise. Again, I believe this is a no-brainer, but being active is important to a healthy lifestyle. It starts at a young age.
I look back at my life, now nearly 40, and most of my childhood memories outside of vacations were playing sports. This is where I had fun. This is where I made my friends. Sports were a way for me to get out and have fun.
Coaches, this is a call to you. It is your job to ensure that your teams and players are loving their time on your team. It is not always about winning. It is about having fun and learning to love the game. It is sad to me when a kid quits because it is not fun. Now, I know kids grow out of sports for many reasons, but when they are not having a good time, this is a problem.
Sports should be fun, especially in practice. This is where you can goof around a bit, get your work in, and learn new skills. Keep it fun and keep the kids coming back.
Better Setup For Life
There are many research projects out there that state kids that who play sports are more likely to succeed in life. This includes attending college, making more money as an adult, and having higher grades while in school.
Here is my take on this as a father and a coach. When you are involved in sports and love to play sports, you are not distracted by the temptations of the world. I know this is not always the case, but I think for the most part playing sports keeps you out of trouble.
Most kids that play sports growing up will not get paid to play or participate in their life. However, the skills and lessons that they take from the games and practices will last a lifetime. I contribute the majority of my success in life back to playing sports and this is why District Champ exists today, to get more kids involved in sports.
Learn Life-Changing Skills
I think we can all agree on the benefits of youth sports that are listed above. We know that physical activity is important, and we can see how playing sports can improve self-esteem, we also know sports are just fun to play.
But let’s change it up a little. I now want to chat about the biggest benefit of playing youth sports and learning life-changing skills. To this day, I believe that playing sports from a very young age helped me become the person that I am today. I believe that playing sports sets the foundation for success.
“After I hit a home run I had a habit of running the bases with my head down. I figured the pitcher already felt bad enough without me showing him up rounding the bases.” – Mickey Mantle
We hear about sportsmanship all the time. However, I think this is a life skill that is slowly being taken from the game. Sportsmanship is simply enjoying the game for what the game is. This is with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors.
I believe that this is a simple concept and something that will help you well into your adult life. Now, I also believe that we as coaches, and more importantly as parents, need to lead my example here. We need to show our kids how to act on the field because this will translate into other situations in life.
So parents and coaches, stop yelling at the referee, they are doing their best. Parents, please stop fighting on the sidelines and keep your drama away from the field. Finally, coaches discipline their athletes when they do not show sportsmanship during and after the game.
This simple life lesson will help your athletes far after they hang up their cleats.
Working as a Team
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
I believe that one of my best skills in the workplace is the ability to work with a team. I have a strong belief that we accomplish more and go further as a team versus an individual. Being part of a team has helped me and my company achieve so much and do great things. I contribute a lot of my success in life to the ability to work as a good teammate.
When you join a youth sports team, you really do not have a choice but to work as a team. No matter the sport you are playing, you are going to have to work together. You are going to have to rely on your teammates to produce. The entire team needs to work together to win.
The benefits of youth sports are the ability to learn this very valuable life lesson early in life. Again, as coaches, it is our responsibility to teach these skills. We need to teach our kids how to work and succeed as a team, not reward the individual.
Sidenote: I have always told every parent on any of my soccer teams that rewarding the individual for scoring a goal is going to hurt the team as a whole. I would much rather see the kids get rewarded for working together because we will score more goals as a team, including the individual.
Learn To Fail the Right Way
“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
In my professional career, I have failed over and over and because I played sports growing up, this has been okay. Listen, nobody wants to fail. Nobody likes to fail, but failing is part of life. It is going to happen.
The difference is how you react to failure. Playing baseball you are going to strike out, pop up, or ground out to the second basement more times than you are going to hit safely. Just because you do not get a base hit every at-bat does not mean you give up. It means you try harder, you work to improve, and ultimately you learn from these failures.
The life lesson and the benefit of playing youth sports is the ability to learn to fail and pick yourself up. Sports will humble you very quickly and teach you how to fail the right way. It will teach you that all failure is just an opportunity to improve.
How To Work Hard
Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference. – Lou Holtz
I am not sure about you, but everything that I have in life has taken hard work. Nothing has been given to me. As I sit here writing this blog post it is 5:25 in the morning. I am up before the kids need to get ready for school and I need to head to work. Yes, at this point, District Champ is a side hustle, but with hard work and dedication, it will take off and help so many people.
The point here is simple. I learned how to work hard and sacrifice to achieve my goals by playing youth sports. The benefit of playing youth sports has taught me how to get up early, put in the work, and ultimately achieve success.
Just as Lou states, I look at hard work as an opportunity, not a punishment. The ability to achieve, create, and accomplish a goal is rewarding. I learned this by spending hours at the batting cage, days taking ground balls. It made me better. It prepared me to work hard in any situation.
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from a difficult situation. It can also be described as toughness. Let’s face it, as adults we need a little resilience in life. This is a life lesson that playing sports has taught me over and over.
We already talked about the reliance on the 2nd-grade football team. The great story of an improbable comeback from a group of kids that never gave up. So, I am going to spare you the details, but we need to be more like these kids in our adult life.
This benefit of youth sports is about learning to overcome difficult situations in school, work, and life in general. When we learn to be resilient as youth sports athletes, we set ourselves up as adults to adapt to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
Youth sports teach us how to continue to get back up, dust ourselves off, and continue to battle in a controlled environment.
The Benefits of Youth Sports Conclusion
As a youth sports coach, I see many benefits to youth sports. This is one of the reasons that I continue to coach youth sports. It is one of the reasons that even when my kids stop playing, I will most likely still have a team each season. I love teaching these lessons, I love seeing the kids learn valuable life skills, and I love the fact that these kids come together and work so hard.
I hope that this blog post has helped you see the many benefits of youth sports. Furthermore, I hope that all of you coaches see how important your job actually is. It is not about the wins and losses. It is not about teaching these kids to be professional athletes. It is about being there, showing up, and teaching these future champions a lesson they will cherish forever.