February 15, 2019
As a soccer coach, I trained my fair share of young children. I watched them grow up and eventually realized that sports can help kids persevere in school. For children who have infinite energy to spare, physical exercise offers the perfect outlet; it’s much more than just a way to release all this energy!
Learning Through Sports
Through sports, children learn to respect rules, interact with other kids and adults, and understand that practice makes perfect. Sports instill good values such as surpassing oneself, developing good competitive spirit and learning to lose or win with grace. Through sports, children learn that you can’t win them all; sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Defeat shouldn’t be perceived as failure; it’s an important life lesson. I would repeat this Nelson Mandela’s quote to my players over and over again: “I never lose. I either win or learn.”
By trying out different sports, children can discover what they like most: individual or team sports? Ball sports, track and field, contact sports? Each and everyone can find their perfect fit and get to know themselves.
The Coach, A Positive Role Model
Over the years, I noticed that some children behave very differently when at home or when on the field. Kids have a very different relationship with their parents and their coach (obviously!) According to their parents, some kids are hard to manage and never listen. But within their team, it’s a whole other story. They respect their coach, teammates, opponents, and the rules.
As a coach, we take on the role of the responsible adult and trainer. It’s our duty to teach our players respect on all fronts: respect of the rules, respect of opponents and respect of the coach. If their playing time depends on it, then it’s in their best interest to apply these concepts.
Sports offers children an additional framework to evolve in. They can play a different role than the one at home, occupy a different status. They feel accomplished and spend their energy, all the while having fun. It’s such a wonderful thing to witness children fulfill themselves through sports! Plus, children who gain fulfillment outside of school also are much more likely to achieve their potential within school walls as well.
Sports and School Can Go Hand in Hand
Unfortunately, children often have to choose between sports and school (exams, homework, etc.). On one side, parents want to prioritize school, and on the other, the coach threatens not to let the child play anymore if he misses practices.
As a coach and a parent, I’m against this perspective which punishes children for making the right choice! We know our kids well: some desperately need to move in order to concentrate, while others can concentrate more easily, or need to study more.
When one of my players is going through exam time, I offer him a deal suited to his needs. For example, he can focus on his studies for as long as he needs and miss practice, and, once he’s back, I guarantee him playing time. This way, the kid studies better knowing he won’t lose his spot on the team, and he passes his classes. It’s a win-win!
Sports, A Last Chance
Even in sports, some children are quite hard to manage, and a lot of them get kicked off their team or sports club.
Several times, I voluntarily received these kids in my team anyways because I saw the potential in them, despite their attitude problems. It wasn’t always a walk in the park; I had to be strict and severe with them, and there were a few tensions… But in the end, these children became my best players, my greatest achievements and, all in all, my biggest source of pride. A few of them even grew up to become part of AA and AAA teams.
It has to be clear to these kids that they need to persevere in school and respect its rules if they want to integrate a Sports Studies program in the future.
Sports, the School of Life
Sports teach children to persevere and not give up. I always have my players’ back. I supervise, guide and train them, and I ask them to give me their best.
Some kids are good at math, others at sports. And success in sports should be rewarded. Besides, success isn’t all about winning the game. It’s also a nice pass, key interception, or good team spirit. All these positive behaviours should be encouraged, congratulated, and praised.
And as coaches, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we work with children, humans, future adults. Our role is crucial, so let’s set the right example. Let’s show them how to surpass themselves and become the best they can be, both in sports and in life. This is how children gain confident and develop their self-esteem.
To me, that’s the key to academic perseverance!