Young kids playing soccer

Guest blog post by Amanda Moore

Playing youth sports isn’t just about winning the championship game or scoring as many points as possible. Youth sports aren’t just about physical activity, they’re about acquiring certain life skills. For kids, learning how to play a sport can be extremely beneficial, from a psychological and social perspective. Sports can teach kids the value of hard work, commitment, self-discipline, and how to fail with dignity. They can teach kids how to effectively deal with extreme pressure and stress. Additionally, how to be a leader and work well as a member of a team.

Here are the top 10 life skills that can kids learn while playing sports at a young age, all of which will benefit kids for years to come:

Commitment

Kids who participate in sports learn the value of commitment early on—they learn the importance of sticking to a task and seeing it through, and that grit, focus, and determination can help you achieve your goals. For example, their commitment involves working hard and listening closely to their coaches. Knowing how to commit to the things you care about is one of the best life lessons anyone can learn.

How to manage setbacks

Children who play sports have to learn how to manage difficulties and setbacks. A setback may come in the form of a botched attempt at a goal or a less-than-perfect practice session. Sports teach us about the value of failure, and that no matter what game you’re playing, it’s important to experience defeat with dignity, learn from our mistakes, and accept success with humility and empathy for others.

Practice is important

Keeping up with a strict practice schedule and putting in the effort to perform better is something all young athletes are expected to do, and it’s something that will benefit them for years to come. Putting in the time and work to get what you want is important, and kids learn this when they play sports.

The value of self-discipline

To excel at any sport, even naturally athletic kids have to cultivate a strong sense of self-discipline. When kids play sports, they have to wake up early for practice, stay late after school, and work hard to stay in shape—this self-discipline is one of the best life skills that kids can learn, and it’s a skill that will come in handy in the workplace and other areas of adult life. Kids who play sports know that success requires hard work and self-discipline.

How to set goals

Goal setting is something that many adults struggle with—often, people aren’t sure how to take action to get what they want in life. Luckily, youth sports provide a solid foundation for knowing how to set reasonable goals and expectations. Most importantly, sports teach kids that they can’t just set goals and blindly hope they’ll reach those goals—rather, young athletes know how to layout an action plan to make sure they achieve those goals. For instance, a basketball player may want to improve their free-throw percentage, so they set a goal to shoot 100 free-throws, three times per week.

Leadership and teamwork

In virtually any sport, kids have to learn how to be leaders—and how to work well with others. Regardless of whether they’re captains of the team or just players, kids who play sports learn to appreciate how different talents and skillsets can contribute to a common goal, and how to step up and motivate and inspire other people. These are wonderfully beneficial life skills to have, and it all starts with sports.

Problem-solving

Sports are full of challenges. Finding creative ways to tackle those challenges is something kids are faced with every day on and off the field or court. For example, young athletes often have to make decisions on the fly, like tackling in-game challenges and pulling their teammates together during tough moments. This is the perfect preparation for the adult world and the workplace, where people have to be able to effectively problem-solve on the fly.

Having a good attitude

Your attitude is what matters, and kids who play sports learn this from an early age. Whether they’re on the field or off, kids learn the value of being gracious, staying positive, and treating others the way they want to be treated. Having a good attitude is one of the best things kids can learn from playing sports.

How to handle pressure

There’s no doubt about it, sports can be a veritable pressure cooker. From preparing for the big game to the final moments of a race, young athletes have to learn how to handle pressure gracefully and manage setbacks when they happen. This is undoubtedly something that will be of great value in the future, as companies appreciate someone who’s able to cope when things get tough, or stressful and meet deadlines.

Integrity

Best of all, youth sports imbue kids with a sense of integrity and purpose. For example, young athletes may have to answer tough ethical questions or face challenging ethical dilemmas and act appropriately. Playing sports encourages kids to find out who they are, and to act with dignity. And there’s nothing more valuable than that.