teaching resilience, humility and self-confidence through youth sports – Nebraska City News Press


Kelly
Evans Hullinger,
MARYLAND

I like sports. I have enjoyed playing and watching sports for as long as I can remember. And as someone who played a year-round sport in high school and pursued athletics (golf) in college, I am constantly grateful for the significant impact the opportunity to play competitive sports has had in my life.

Now I’m a parent, a proud coach of a girls’ soccer team, and a more casual observer of youth athletics. I see youth sports through the lens of how it can impact our children. Statistically, most kids who try a sport or activity when they’re young won’t participate in that activity in high school; even fewer will go on to college athletics and, of course, almost none will play sports professionally. But I still think that if done with the right goals in mind, prioritizing fun and learning, sport can do amazing things for kids as they develop.

All sports can teach resilience and humility. Learning a new skill – walking on a balance beam or hitting a fastball – is difficult but can be done with effort and persistence. Children can learn to manage their emotions and actions when things aren’t easy because running a mile or making a putt takes perseverance. They can learn to accept coaching and constructive criticism, skills that we can all use as adults. They can literally fall on the ground or on the ground and learn to get up and try again.

Another influential facet of sport is social. Being part of a team teaches kids valuable social skills. Every child in a team sport will take their turn on the bench or on the sidelines and learn to cheer on their teammates. They can cheer on their struggling teammate in practice. They can learn to reach out to a fallen opponent. And they can learn to respectfully shake hands with their rival after losing, winning, or playing for fun.

Finally, sport can help shape our children’s perception of themselves and their bodies. Youth sports make exercise and activity fun, potentially affecting how they view exercise as adults. Playing sports helps young people focus on what their body can do and how it can feel, rather than how it looks or how someone judges it. Many studies have associated the practice of sports with self-confidence. I think about it a lot with my own daughters.

I haven’t become a Sue Bird or a Serena Williams, and my kids probably won’t either. But I hope all the kids in my life can have fun and learn a few lessons playing sports. It definitely made a difference for me.

Kelly Evans-Hullinger, MD is part of The Prairie Doc’s team of physicians and currently practices internal medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook with On Call with the Prairie Doc, a medical Q&A program providing science-based, trust-based health information, streamed live on Facebook the most Thursdays at 7 p.m. Central Time.

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