Regardless of the level of offseason activity, when it comes to training and practicing, everyone can take at least a few moments to sit back, relax, and take a deep breath…or several deep breaths.
It’s important to remember that there is no offseason when it comes to learning and growing – both as an athlete and as an individual.
What do sports teach us? The universal response – from coaches, parents and athletes alike – is always "life lessons." We oftentimes champion sports for our children in the hopes that they will learn these valuable life lessons through their experience. But what lessons exactly do we hope they’ll learn? What life lessons do you think your son or daughter learned this past soccer season?
Life Lessons Checklist
Here’s a checklist for life lessons we hope your athlete has learned or will learn through their youth sports experience.
- Practice Makes…Better: It’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting better and improving. One of the life lessons we hope our children learn through sports is that their effort will be rewarded.
- Focus on what you can control: Youth sports should help kids learn that all they can do is focus on their effort, and not the outcome. They should focus on what they can control, not what is out of their control.
- Let go of mistakes: Successful athletes brush off mistakes. They acknowledge them, they learn from them and they then move past them. They put them in the past.
- Keep learning: We’re constantly learning – from our successes but also from our mistakes. Youth sports should help kids recognize that even the best players are constantly learning and working to get better. It’s an approach to life that will serve us all well.
- Being positive moves us further: PCA’s "Emotional Tank" analogy to a car’s gas tank is a good one. Just like a car’s gas tank, when our Emotional Tanks are full, we can go further. In a Responsible Sports environment, while coaches and parents fill our young athletes’ tank, one life lesson for athletes to learn is the need for them to fill their teammates’ tanks.
- Celebrate Success: Sports teach us to celebrate success – large and small. We all know how to celebrate winning the game, but sports can also help us learn to celebrate the smaller goals we set for ourselves, and see winning in a whole new light.
- Become a true team player: Sports should teach our children what we mean by a true team player – someone who contributes 100%, and at the same time cooperates and collaborates with teammates to help bring out their best too. PCA talks about being a Triple-Impact Competitor®: making yourself better, making your teammates better, and making the game better. It’s this lesson we hope our children bring to their adult relationships.
- Win and Lose with Dignity: It’s called "Honoring the Game" in sports. And we hope our young athletes learn to both win and lose while respecting themselves, their teammates, their opponents and the officials and organization that help make their sport experience possible. As an adult, how we define "game" changes, but we hope sports teaches us all to win and lose with dignity and respect.
Competing in soccer teaches you more than the rules of play; it provides you with tools that translate into other aspects of your life. Soccer requires quick thinking, fast action and the ability to work as part of a team, and these skills can help you stay focused and productive in your personal and professional life.
Part of a Team
In soccer, you win and lose as a team; no one person carries the team by himself, although one person might score the winning goal or miss a critical shot that leads to a loss. In life, you become part of many teams, from family units to groups of co-workers. These people rely on you, and you on them, to meet certain goals, such as financial savings or finishing a project on time. These relationships require collaboration, just like you work with your soccer teammates by passing the ball or blocking an opponent so he can't steal the ball from a teammate. Soccer helps you understand that win or lose, you do it as a team -- you don't get to take all the credit when a group project surpasses expectations, nor do you take all the blame if the project fails. This requires building other skills such as strong communication, so your teammates -- or co-workers -- know what you're doing and what's expected of them.
Risks and Mistakes
Taking risks, such as shooting for the goal from midfield, can lead to failure, but it also can end in an amazing victory. This is true in life as well. Learning to take risks means you open the door to new ideas and interesting ventures, even though they might fail. Taking risks that don't work out -- on the field and off -- helps you learn to handle mistakes, learning from them and making changes to improve future decisions instead of wallowing in despair when things don't work out they way you want. This also means learning to deal with other people's mistakes, whether that person is a referee who makes an incorrect call or a family member who uses poor judgment in a financial investment.
How to Lose
Even the best soccer teams lose occasionally, which is an important lesson to apply to your life. You might have the best game you've ever played, but the team still loses. This helps you survive job interviews that end up with you getting the dreaded "thank you but no thank you" letter, or being passed over for promotion. A loss in soccer can energize the team, making you and your teammates call for extra practices to work on skills that need improvement such as dribbling, passing or scoring. The same is true in life -- use the loss to help you refocus your energies on how to win that promotion next time, for example.
Soccer helps you build other valuable skills as well. It teaches you the importance of attitude, and how a good attitude can invigorate others as well as yourself. It lets you see you can always be better -- practice is key, and the more you practice, study or work on a project, the better you, or it, can be. Soccer teaches you dignity when you win and after a loss, which helps you live and work with others as social and work roles continually change.