I’m a big believer in children taking part in sport. Or at least something active and something that involves some kind of commitment to a team – if not sport, then dance (and at a push music would have many of the benefits of taking part in sports outside of the physical aspect). There’s so many positives from young children right through to teens, that all children should be encouraged to take part in some kind of sport outside of what schools force them to do.
I was originally someone who was terrible at sport until we moved when I was 7 to Oxfordshire. I used to be last in the sports day races at nursery – I’m not sure I understood what I was meant to do. And apart from swimming lessons, I don’t remember doing anything other than PE in pants and vest at my first primary school. I know that not everyone is good at it. And not everyone enjoys it.
I had an epiphany once we moved house and all of a sudden I found my sporting feet. I was one of the fastest in the year for girls, could do well in long jump and high jump, so sports day was great. I played in the netball club, gave hockey a go and played tennis. Plus at home all the children used to play football, rounders, cricket and other random made up games like roller biking, or bike hockey down the road or on the huge green.
We also played a bit of swingball and badminton in the garden, then when older I used to go in school holidays to play badminton with my mum’s weekly badminton group. A squash holiday club meant we joined the local squash club, and I was in a lot of the school teams for various sports, both individual and team (although even tennis at school was doubles so all about the team).
Wishes for children playing sport
Having a child, I wanted him to enjoy sports, but it’s not always easy to find something children enjoy and want to stick at. My brother and I played most sports and wanted to be involved with teams. But N isn’t much of a fan of organised lessons generally. He likes to do things himself when he wants.
Swimming was a prime example where he spent 4 years doing baby and toddler lessons but not really enjoying it. Unfortunately for him, swimming is essential to learn, and luckily as soon as he was in normal children’s lessons in the pool on his own, he was happier. After he hit stage 4 and realised he could swim pretty efficiently, and that the teacher was pleased with him, he’s not looked back.
He’s the same with tennis. After a blip at the start, he’s enjoyed his lessons throughout.
Team sports I can’t get him into. He enjoys multi-sports – an after school club where they play the most random sports ever – dodgeball, Danish Long ball, and crazy tag amongst others. But he loved trying Aussie Rules Football last year. He’ll give cricket and hockey a good go in school lessons, but doesn’t fancy giving proper training a go. I think he’d be good in a team, but not doing it frees up time for him to play more tennis as well as having some free time as a family.
Team sports are so important.
Benefits of team sports
- Working together
- Having a group focus
- Support from team mates and learning to support others
- Living through the victory and pain with others
- Options to try other positions
- More thinking ahead about strategy
- Less lonely when travelling and going to matches or tournaments
- Shared pressure vs individual sports
While team sports certainly have advantages, individual sports can be important and beneficial too.
Benefits of individual sports
Confidence building – they know it’s them doing the work, and they’re learning to walk new into a place on their own. It amazes me how N doesn’t seem fazed by this (outwardly at least), and for a quiet child, he’ll end up chatting to another child.
Goals and progress focused – learn and take on improvements, it’s more tailored to that child’s performance, and they learn to think independently for themselves
Learning accountability – for the good and learning from poorer games
Learn how to cope when things aren’t going so well, and look out for ways to get past that.
Sometimes there are also team opportunities in some individual sports, whether in doubles, or different events in an athletics or swim team.
These are more chance to meet new friends, mixing with others, and not just those inside your own team.
Empathy for others – while some children can get super competitive, others can really support their opponent and show kindness in winning. This isn’t seen as much in a team as you get caught up in the team rather than thinking about your opponent.
More visibility to coaches – in a team you have to be noticeable out of XX number of players, and might not even get to play in your best position.
Increased coaching opportunities – private lessons are possible, giving the opportunity to progress technically faster.
Can see personal improvement and where you need to improve.
Learning discipline, habit, goal setting and experiencing achievement.
I’m really pleased that N has found a sport he really loves and wants to improve at. I sometimes wonder how good I could have got if I’d focused on one sport instead of playing in several sports at a young age. I do worry that focusing on one means he loses out on options when he’s older, especially if he decides all of a sudden he never wants to play again. There are still transferable skills from one sport to another I’m sure he can take with him.
Are your children into individual or team sports? How do you teach them the importance of the other where they don’t see those benefits in their own sport?
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