Encouraging our son to play school sports: A dad's perspective

For the past seven years, my wife and I have loved watching our son play youth sports. From ages five through 12, he has played soccer, basketball, and baseball. Youth sports provide him hours of fun and exercise each week. He has made many friends and built memories outside of the classroom. Many kids stop playing sports when they reach secondary school, but we want our son to continue playing. As a former school athlete and coach, I can attest that school sports will provide even more benefits for our son.

Exercise

We require our son to exercise. We do not want him spending excessive time on the couch or the computer. Sports give him two to three hours of exercise during each practice session and game. His youth league teams either practiced or played games three to four times per week, so he got between six to eight hours of rigorous exercise each week. School teams typically practice or play five to six days per week, so he will get even more exercise then. When our son stays in shape, he sleeps more soundly at night and focuses better on his schoolwork.

Teamwork

Talent alone does not win. School sports require teamwork. Our son will learn how his teammates will react to the current play and think ahead to the next one. He will learn to communicate both verbally and with gestures. Players hold each other accountable to work hard at practice so they can win the games. They pick each other up and encourage each other to continue when things go awry.

At our school, the coaches teach their players to win and lose with dignity. They use their strengths and work to improve their difficulties for the betterment of themselves and the team. As a teacher, I have seen countless instances in which the players translate all of these skills to other group ventures such as class projects or on-the-job tasks.

Friendships

Our son often keeps to himself or a small group of friends. Teens who play sports together, though, tend to build strong friendships. They spend a few hours each day learning to work together. I have seen my students bond just as much in the classroom as they do on the field. They study together before and after practice and hold each other accountable for maintaining grades so they can all stay on the teams. They will come to class on Monday and tell me what they all did together over the weekend. Fair or not, many kids revere the athletes. We want our son to have these types of experiences, and school sports will open doors to those relationships.

Learn how to compete

We live in a very competitive world in which our son needs to learn to compete. When he begins working as an adult, he will need to take advantage of his strengths and work hard to improve his weaknesses to get the best results. School teams play to win. The players work hard at practice and perform well in the games or risk losing their starting positions. Those who want more playing time must work even harder. Results matter, so playing school sports will teach our son to give his best effort or get left out. As one of the youngest on the team, he will have to start low and work himself up by competing within his team at practice and then against the other team in the games. Most employees will have to follow the same path, and school sports will introduce him to that path.

Many benefits

School sports play important parts in many teens' lives. They require physical exercise, provide opportunities for strong relationships, and teach kids to compete. The best athletes can earn college scholarships. Even those who do not win athletic scholarships enhance their college applications by showing the well-roundedness that many college administrators want in their students. We want our son to experience all that he can from school; sports will provide many of those opportunities along with giving him life-long memories.

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