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Life lessons from sports

As a parent, one thing I've come to highly value are avenues for my children to expend a high percentage of their energy.  As infants, this usually just meant having tummy time and attending playgroups where Mommy could get a little bit of adult time while Baby got much needed stimulation from his/her surroundings.

As my children grew, I had to become more creative in finding ways to use up their energy because it was exponentially increasing.  Because we live in the Pacific Northwest - and get close to nine months of dreary, rainy weather - this meant purchasing a small indoor (think 80s exercise style) trampoline and converting our dining room into a playroom so that the kids had plenty of room to play and run around.  On good weather days, we'd go to the park or play outside with chalk, bikes, and more.  During the summer, we would get out the inflatable pool and have some water fun. But, as my children continue to grow, these things are not enough.  My husband and I have had to look even deeper - thus turning to sports.   

I grew up with sports as a fairly large part of my like.  I did gymnastics, swam competitively and figure skated (competing on what was then called a precision team - now known as synchronized skating).  These sports activities were a great way for me to have a constructive atmosphere in which I could use all of my energy.  They were also a great way for me to learn about healthy competition, healthy living, having fun through exercise, and so much more.

Even though many of the sports in which I participated had a team atmosphere to them, they were primarily individual sports and; therefore, enhanced an environment where more emphasis was placed on individual performance than a team's performance.  Even participating on a precision skating team - think Rockettes on ice - required that I was first an individual skater who had mastered specific skills.  These individual sports taught me a lot of self-discipline, hard work and ensuring that I controlled my body - not my body controlling me - in every area of my life (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual). 

As I look around the world in which we currently live, I want my children to learn these same attributes and will definitely sign them up for individual sports.  However, while I deeply value the experiences that I had as an athlete and competitor within each of these sports, I have also decided that I want my children's sports experience to be more encompassing of what life (especially in this current day and age) will bring them - better teaching them how to work together and cooperate with multiple people of different skill levels, backgrounds, and accomplishments.  Therefore, beyond just allowing my children to participate in individual sports, I want them to also participate in team sports where there isn't as much emphasis placed on an individual's performance, but on how the team works together.

Every time I consider this concept of working together as a team, I'm reminded of the 1980 Miracle hockey team.  When the U.S. team was being put together, the strength of the individual player was not the primary deciding factor.  It was instead the ability to take an athlete's skills and meld them into a team that could work together and be insurmountable. Learning this, especially as a young athlete, is a truly invaluable lesson.

I realize that there is more to teach my children than what can be accomplished in sports.  But, I've yet to find a better method to expend the continually expanding amounts of energy that they contain - in environments which will give them valuable life lessons.  Healthy competition - whether individual or as a team - is a great educator...and gives Mommy a few of hours each week to just sit and breathe.


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