Using Sports To Motivate and Teach Character


By Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby –

Team Huddle.jpgA few years there were seasons of the year for given sports and sometimes during the year where I lived there were no sports teams in operation where youth were concerned. This is not the case now because basketball, for instance, and other sports are year around activities, excepting a brief lull during winter. Even then, aspiring players are asked to participate in conditioning programs or in other ways attempt to build their skills.

I have had the opportunity to be a coach for my children’s little league sports. I have played high school sports and knew a little bit about basketball, football, and baseball, but at the time I began I had no experience being a coach. I became involved because some of my older children had played on teams and were coached by people and I was not very pleased with all of them. Some of these coaches were skilled teachers but didn’t treat the players well. They yelled at young kids, they put too much pressure on them, and they were so competitive they displayed a lot of intense frustration if they lost. Some coaches made the effort but their work required more time than they thought, so the kids lost the opportunity to learn.

Sometimes parents became too emotionally involved and their sportsmanship suffered a bit. I have observed parents yelling negative and abusive things to opposing players and display anger triggered by referees or umpires who didn’t do as they wanted. And, over the years I have had the experience of men and women who didn’t spend a lot of time coaching attempt to influence how I did it. This was especially the case when they worried about how much their child would play.

The reason I mention these experiences is to contrast them with other people who understood that sports and team building offers a terrific time for parents to teach important lessons. One of these is to help children become self motivated and discover that being a self starter is more mature and more satisfying than depending on someone else. For a sport, they will get themselves up in the morning, they will practice on their own, and they will desire to be on time because that is usually what their coach asks them to do. It is also possible to use sports to teach that a player has responsibilities to others and needs to obey rules and work hard to help rather than hinder their team. You can use sports to help teach dependability and the importance of being accountable for what you do. Overall, sports can be used to improve a child’s sense of achievement.

In this same vein it is possible to teach children there are consequences for decisions they make. What they do or do not do matters because they are involved with other people. If parents saw these opportunities they could use the same communication and reasoning about the individual child and the other members of your family. What they do or do not do matters to other family members and may help or injure them.

In this time of year we will have a lot of opportunities to teach children. We thank those who spend the time and effort and we can teach our children to respect them by setting an example ourselves. It is a good season if we take advantage of these opportunities.

Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby is a child and family psychologist and a contributing author for First Answers online courses.

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