7 Life Lessons Kids Learn from Sports

By Jessica Wolstenholm

I’m not sure when it all started, but it seems every season of the year has a sports obsession attached to it: From the World Series to the Super Bowl…from the World Cup to the Olympics (easily our favorite, even if only every four years.) There is a sport for everyone, even those drawn to the less-traditional (but equally exciting) X games, or the Triple Crown of Surfing (from here on our Hawaiian island.)

There’s no denying it: Sports have become a big part of life as we know it.

And there’s plenty of good in that. Sports give us all something to talk about, cheer for, and even celebrate. Sports are less divisive than politics, and more interesting than the weather. Sports are a healthy distraction from the sometimes mundane nature of everyday life.

Even more: Sports can teach us great lessons to apply to the rest of our lives!

My husband is a family doctor with a passion for sports. He is an ex-pro soccer player and avid surf-dad, and he is a big believer in the benefits of competitive youth sports. He suggests every kid should get the chance to try out a few different sports – not just because it is healthy for them, but also because sports involvement is a great preparation for the real world ahead.

Whether they’re watching and cheering, or actively participating, here are seven ways sports can help prepare kids for their futures:

1. Sports themselves are in many ways a microcosm of life. Consider it: a gathering of people, a set of rules, time constraints, and a judge. Learning to work within these parameters has endless metaphors for the realities of life ahead.  Sports offer us a multitude of teachable moments if we are looking for them.

2. Sports teach teamwork. Real life is full of tasks that require teamwork, and sports are a great way to prepare for that. Working with others, accepting differences, and working through conflicts will no doubt grow character qualities like humility, patience, and compassion in our kids. These qualities are important in everything from family life, to work, and church or community involvement.

3. Sports teach kids to work hard for a goal. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. . .in work, in play, and in life. Doing well in sports requires a great deal of commitment, perseverance, and patience. These traits will naturally overflow into other areas of life.

4. Sports teach kids to submit to authority. Sports most often involve coaches – some good and some not-so-good. While doing sports kids will have to learn to work with, and submit to, both. Later in life our kids will have bosses and teachers and leaders of all kinds as well.  Submitting to, and getting along with coaches will only better prepare them for this.

5. Sports teach kids to win…and lose. As much as we all love to win, it is true that we learn more from losing than winning. And learning to lose well is an important skill in life. Learning to lose well can prepare kids for other disappointing outcomes in life, whether in work or family, health or community involvement. Eventually we all face disappointments, and sports can help kids be better prepare for these times.

6. Physical training offers countless spiritual analogies. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”  In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul talks running in such a way as to get the prize. There are plenty of spiritual lessons in every sport if we take notice. Chatting with kids after a practice or game will offer us all kinds of opportunities to help them make the connection and bring Scripture to life.

7. Sports are a great part of a balanced life. Kids these days are expected to sit in school and work for so many hours. There are less hours dedicated to PE and recess all of the time. If kids take the time to commit to a sport after school now, they will be more likely to find ways to incorporate fitness into their life as an adult.

If your kids are not in sports, then why not try a few on for size?  You may discover some great talent in your kid, and no matter what, they’re sure to grow from the experience.

If your child is already actively involved in sports (or, next time your family is watching a competitive sport) look for teachable moments! Some great conversations can come out of everything from March Madness to Little League, and more.