Parenting student athletes requires quite a balancing act. The older the student, the more complicated and essential it becomes to find the right balance between maintaining good grades and being a responsible, proficient athlete. As the mom of a tween and a teen who rotate between gymnastics, baseball, karate and ski racing, I've learned a few tricks that help sports play a beneficial role in a child's development of time management, sportsmanship, improving concentration and focus, being dedicated and responsible, and making friends.
Sports help kids learn time management.
When your child is involved in before or after school sports practices, when do they find time to study? School sponsored sports require students to maintain GPAs, and private coaches want their athletes available for long hours on a daily basis. Student athletes must learn to balance their free time and maximize their study time. When my daughter entered 7th grade she was an elite level gymnast, going directly from school to the gym. For the first 30-60 minutes after she arrived, she and other gymnasts spread their books out and got to work on their homework. After workout, it was dinner and right back to the books. She learned to carefully record her assignments, keep her work organized, and always double-check that she had all her materials before she left school.
Athletes learn good sportsmanship.
No one likes to see an athlete throw a temper tantrum. When they make mistakes, athletes need to know appropriate behavior. I've seen ski racers crash, miss a gate, or just make mistakes and ski off the course in a huff. That teachable moment must involve the coach, the parent, and even other athletes to model and explain acceptable reactions to loss and frustration. As maturity increases, so does sportsmanship.
Sports improve concentration and focus.
Every sport my children have tried requires repetitive practice of the same skills, drills, and techniques. This isn't the glamorous part of the sport, but it is not only how kids improve their performance, but also learn to concentrate on what they need to work on and directly focus on a single movement or skill. In karate, my son has studied the same moves from white belt to second-degree black belt. It is only through mastery of each skill that the reward of the next rank is given. As he increases his rank, the intensity of the skill grows to match.
Sports teach dedication and responsibility.
Ski racing isn't an easy sport. Athletes must contend with early hours, extensive equipment and challenging weather. In order to succeed in many sports, students must commit to extensive conditioning and practice. They must be responsible for keeping track of schedules and pieces of equipment. They must learn to ask for help, arrive early, and stay until the end.
Sports helps kids make friends.
Athletes spend many hours with their teammates. They share common interests and goals, and have similar dedication and goals. Through gymnastics and ski racing my daughter created strong friendships that allowed her to have a type of social group outside of her school friends. For parents, having children who follow similar schedules creates natural opportunities for socializing, too.
Whether your child plays a privately sponsored sport, is on a travel team, or wants to play on their school team, a sports experience can teach them so much more than just about the activity. Between learning time management, sportsmanship, improving concentration and focus, being dedicated and responsible, and making friends, student athletes are definitely on track for greatness.