One embarrassing and un-American soccer player will not change kids’ love of the game.
This humble sport enthralled international audiences and was accessible to the most rural, least developed areas long before Americans joined and renamed the game.
More than a sport inspiring fans to paint themselves in home team colors and chant in stadium-vibrating waves, soccer teaches essential life lessons that transcend sport.
Our soccer family learned these lessons during our 13-year journey playing, coaching and refereeing in AYSO and club soccer. Six-to-11 year-olds now look to my daughter for soccer dribbling and fast footwork coaching in I Got Skills clinics. She emphasizes these lessons with her cleated charges because they are applicable outside of soccer.
What Soccer Kids Hear = Life Lesson
1. Falling down is normal = Expect to fail
This doesn’t mean “walk it off.” Everyone misses; everyone falls down.
Get up, brush yourself off, sit out if you need to. I believe you are strong enough, inside and out, to get up and get back in the game.
Rather than minimizing a bruise or bump in the road, this attitude assures a child that falling down is no big deal; resume when ready.
2. Your team needs you = your role is important
While you’re sitting on the sidelines team, your team is playing a man down.
Soccer is a team sport. Even a so-so player is needed on the field, and his impact varies by skill and effort.
Like a farm family that depends on each other to handle crucial responsibilities, a child fortunate enough to learn this lesson becomes empowered to bring diligence and effort to his role. This type of internal motivation is more powerful than external pressure – “The team’s depending on you!”
3. Go hard = respect yourself and do your best
No matter who won, if your team played hard, it was a good game.
A player with heart inspires the team to try harder because she believes in her teammates and respects herself (remember Rudy?).
Supporting a child in sports means supporting a child’s desire to try things, to fail, to try again, and to fail again.
Teach them to conduct themselves in a way they can be proud of.
Other sports convey these lessons too but team sports practice communication and teamwork in a way that is especially valuable in the work world.
I am most proud of my athlete daughter for her grit and determination, and for her desire for self-improvement and to be an asset to her team. She is stronger and more resilient for playing sports. When I encourage her to get up and get back in the fray, it’s because I believe in her strength and courage.
What lesson did sport teach you?
Featured image by Dan & Sara on Flickr.