Life lessons from elementary school sports

I love watching my kids play sports. It’s always fun to cheer them on and see how they improve throughout the season. But as I’ve watched not only my own children but the other kids play on their teams, I’ve realized there are several life lessons (yes, even for mamas!) that can be learned through those games and kids, especially the younger ones. The following are my observations in no particular order:

Lesson #1 – No one knows what they’re doing (this applies mostly to the very young ones!). Sure, there are kids who are more naturally athletic than others, but on the whole, everyone is clueless. The difference between the kids who are “good” and the kids who aren’t so “good” is their level of fear and persistence. I’ve seen kids try to make a basket about 20 times during a game, and make maybe one. That’s some serious persistence. I’ve seen other kids terrified when they get the ball and just throw it to anyone else on their team that’s open. Why? Because they’re afraid they’re going to screw something up. But the thing is EVERYONE screws things up (like the kid taking 20 shots and getting one bucket). That’s how we learn. And I realized that, just like I see these kids on the court or field do, I also need to lose my fear (because EVERYONE doesn’t have a clue when they first start something!) and persist no matter what. What a serious paradigm shift!

Lesson #2 – People pass to people they know. So let’s set some ground rules – life is NOT fair! It’s impossible to not be biased on a team or in life. You just like or get along with some people more than others for a gazillion different reasons. Maybe certain kids don’t go to the same school (which is the case for my kids!). Or maybe certain kids hang out the majority of their day with a different friend group. There are many different scenarios and it’s completely natural that some children won’t be as good of friends as others. Is that awful? Well, in theory, it CAN be, since there may be a perception of bias and unfairness on the court. But how do we deal with it? We need to do the best with what we’ve been given rather than get ticked off about what we don’t have. The times that we DO get passed to, SHINE! And in between games, practice like crazy. Because even when we don’t know someone or may not like someone, we’re going to eventually pass the ball to whoever is really good. We all want to win the game, right? I tell my kids often to just keep truckin’ and rock where you’re at and with what you’ve been given. Can I hear an Amen?

Lesson #3 – Listen to your coaches. This one seems pretty obvious, but I’ve seen many kids looking out into the stands, getting directed by their parents or some other very well-intentioned loved one. The problem is that the coach is the one in charge, and conflicting instructions can be confusing and frustrating at best for everyone involved. This can definitely apply to us as adults with respect to who we’re getting our instructions from as well. As Joshua plainly puts it, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served… or the gods of the Amorites… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15).

Lesson #4 – Size doesn’t matter nearly as much as grit and hustle. There have been kids I’ve seen that are huge and look like they should be able to kill it on the field. But when they got out there, they didn’t exactly live up to expectations. And I’ve seen tiny, unathletic appearing children that rock on the court, and can handle the ball like nobody’s business. Like I tell my children all the time, just T-R-Y don’t C-R-Y!! Don’t get all worked up because someone appears better or stronger. Just go out there and TRY! When we put forth an effort, the LORD uses every bit of that. Faith is active, not passive! The Jordan River parted after the priests set their foot at the edge of the water, not while they stood there and waited for the miracle. Try even when you think you’re outmatched by someone else or something else. And if it doesn’t work, at least you know what NOT to do!

Lesson #5 – Play nice! No one likes a bully. I’ve seen kids play hard and accidentally foul someone and literally just walk away. And I’ve seen others play hard, accidentally foul someone and graciously offer a hand up and an apology. Now who would you rather play against? I think we can be tough without being a jerk, wouldn’t you say?

Lesson #6 – Have fun! Playing a game is supposed to be fun. Sometimes we lose and sometimes we win. In either case, we can learn from the experiences. We can swing to either extreme if we take ourselves too seriously. If all we focus on is winning, we can get all sorts of prideful. And if all we think about is how much we stink and lose all the time, we can get all sorts of discouraged and depressed. In either case, our focus is all wrong. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we need to forget about ourselves and enjoy the gifts that we’ve been given, whether that’s a sports game, a job, or a child. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Let’s enjoy those gifts in all their various forms, right?

Lesson #7 – And last but not least: Respect the refs. Referees get so much grief! They’re blamed for everything from a bad call to the loss of a game. But I think if we’re honest with ourselves and just stop and think about it, they’re just people. They’re doing the best they can. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Are they the kindest creatures on this earth? Well, that depends. But the point is, just as our kids and we as parents need to respect the refs, we need to be sure to be showing respect to the authorities who keep the peace in our everyday lives. You can find bad apples in every occupation, but I’d say the majority are doing the very best job that they can. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt, and always show respect.

So that’s it from my end. Anyone else have some game-changing insights on watching their children play sports? I’d love to hear about them!

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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