Superbowl XLVIII took place this last Sunday night. I’m not going to talk about the fact that my Seattle Seahawks absolutely demolished Denver. I’m not going to speak to Peyton Manning’s legacy, or the fact that he has a bad tendency to fall apart when it matters most. I’m not even going to speak about Seattle’s shut down defense and that they are poised for a real long run of success. Nope, none of that at all. No gloating here. Not one bit.
All jokes aside…
Growing up, Sports were paramount to me. There wasn’t a thing I looked forward to more than playing, whether it was organized or a pick up game of football in the street. I remember riding the bus home from elementary school, wearing a baseball hat, looking out the window at the fields we drove past, admiring the manicured infields of the baseball diamonds, simply waiting and smiling for when I would get home. I was blessed to know that my dad would be home when I got there, making me an afternoon snack, and that as soon as I was finished I would be able to run outside, meet my neighbors, and pick up a game of whatever sport was in season. I’d run outside, carrying my football or baseball glove, beaming. The only thing I loved more than these pickup games was competitive sports – coming to the field with my team and competing, for the love of the game.
Of course there are the obvious benefits sports give to a developing child – learning a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, improved teamwork and leadership skills – but there are plenty of other lessons important to life that are learned on the field, or court, or pitch, or wherever sports are played.
I learned that in order to improve at anything, it takes hard work and practice. “Practice the way you want to play,” my dad would always tell me. Sports taught me that putting in hours of half-assed practice means nothing; it’s the hard work and the repetition, over and over again, trying, struggling, grappling to learn something new, that will bring out results.
I learned not to quit. I learned what it means to give effort when faced with defeat, that no matter how the game was going, I simply would not quit until the game was over. “Leave it all on the field – you can be tired later.”
I learned how to lose. Losing is important – it teaches us how to respond when things don’t simply go our way, because lets face it, they not always will. I was a sore loser as a young child, but years of sport taught me how to lose with grace and to take those moments as lessons. Seeing a losing experience as a lesson and a learnable moment is crucial. I learned how to bounce back.
Thinking about the person I want my soon-to-be child to become, I hope that my child will find joy and value and entertainment in what sports have to offer. Play because you love the game, and its amazing what you end up learning along the way.