What I Want My Kids to Learn From Sports

As you might imagine, I’ve been on the sidelines of just a few athletic events over the years. I believe that kids are like dogs, they are best behaved with plenty of fresh air and exercise. But like any activity, my husband and I hope that athletics are more for just keeping our kids “behaved.” We want sports to shape them into the adults we would want to be friends with some day. 

This is what I hope that they learn:

  • Hard work pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you work hard all summer in hopes of a PR, only to get hurt the first week of the season. Sometimes you work your tail off for a full year in the off season in hopes it will be enough to get you to State your senior year. Whether you see it pay off or not, the satisfaction that is gained from hard work is something that one should take pride in. No matter the outcome. Because that is life. 
A year of hard work paid off – he went to State!
  • People notice your work ethic and you will develop a reputation for it. This begins early on as other kids and parents know which kid is trying their best and which kid isn’t. The kid who isn’t may be talented but in the end, will not gain as much respect as the kids who are hard workers. No matter who notices, you know in your heart when you’ve done your absolute best.

  • Respect your body because it’s the only one you’ve got. Get plenty of sleep, water and nutritious food. Slow down when you need to and push it when you know you can. And when you do push it, you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish. You never knew you could run nine miles or swim 7000 yards in a practice and live to see another day. And if you can do that, what else can that amazing body of yours do?

  • There is a BIG difference between losing and losing badly. Do my kids win sometimes? Occasionally. Is it fun to win? Of course. But no matter the outcome, I expect them to use good sportsmanship and have pride in how they supported the team. They are not allowed to complain, and, “It’s not fair!” is banned from my house if things did not go well. If you tried your best that is all that matters. Yes. Really. This is how we learn. 
Cheering your teammate on = sportsmanship!
  • Having coaches means that my kids have to listen to and learn from adults other than my husband and I. This is usually a good thing. I do not want to be my kids’ only teacher. I believe it really does take a village to raise a good kid and I will rely on any adult who is willing to put him or herself out there to make a dent in my kids’ lives. Role models take on many forms and I believe coaches are a fine example.
Sometimes Dad is the coach.
  • If we are not our kids’ coach we are their parent. Period. If my sons ask me for my opinion on their running I always defer to their coach. Even though I have my own expertise and experience in the running community I stay out of it. It is my job to support them and love them no matter how they perform. And, the last thing I want is for one of them to go back to their coach and say, “But my Mom says…”
Me on the sideline with my mouth kept shut. Sometimes, its better to say nothing at all. Photo Credit: Lisa Sanchez
  • Sometimes adults behave badly at sporting events. What can my kids learn? That I’ll stand up for them if an adult is unkind. That adults make mistakes too. And, maybe they will learn how not to act when they are adults and/or parents someday.
  • It’s supposed to be fun. And, when it’s not anymore, we find something else. Recently my ten year old decided soccer was just, “okay.” I don’t have the time, money or energy to take him to something he calls, “okay.” So, he’s joined swim team this year and he is loving it.
These three ran 5 miles on New Years Day and called it fun.

We’re not raising Olympians here. The point of being involved in sports is to learn a strong work ethic, have fun, stay active and make friends. I think we’re accomplishing that goal and more. We have made some good friends with the parents that we spend time with on the sidelines and our lives are richer because our kids are active in sports. If they learn a few things that shape them into decent human beings then I think we’ve accomplished our goals.


Julie is a mom of five boys and one girl. She is a runner, biker, yoga instructor and socializer. That about sums it up. Believe it or not, she really does enjoy the soccer, cross country, swim team, track, dance classes, basketball, and theater her kids are involved in as long as she has another mom (or dad) to talk to during these events. Julie is starting a new adventure going back to school to get her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Edgewood College.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here