I was relishing a gorgeous evening while my boys played football with their peers. Blogging away, my cares were left far behind. Then, a familiar screech of rage pierced the peace of the dusk. It was my elder son, stomping his way across the field, tears of fury flowing down his cheeks. A bigger child in the opposing team had roughly pushed him out of the way and scored a well-deserved goal. The unfairness of the situation got the better of my son, and he refused to step onto the field.
This situation drew so many parallels to real life.
There’s always someone bigger, better, stronger out there, waiting in the wings to take us out. Some play unfair games while others fail miserably while sticking virtuously to the rules.Tweet
My son was the latter, the underdog who had received his first taste of the real world. He had put his best foot forward, and yet he had failed. Could he have done anything differently? Was he not good enough? Self-doubt permeated his being, and his young mind couldn’t process why the world works this way.
I explained to my son that sometimes things don’t go our way. I told him that real strength comes when we keep going, even when we fail. He did go back to the game eventually, leaving me with a sore heart and a lot of thought about the importance of sport in education.
Why do we identify with sports?
As I reflected on the incident that had just occurred, I began puzzling over how else I could teach my children about the unfairness of life and of fate itself. When it comes to academics, usually, if you study hard enough, it stands to reason that you’ll do well. Likewise, if you hone a hobby and nurture it every day, a person will eventually master it. Sports distinguishes itself from these criteria as it involves a sense of competition. Contrary to exams where toppers can share the same marks, there can be only one winner in a sport. Whether a team or an individual, the glory goes to one, and the rest are left with time to reflect on why things turned out the way they did.
This may be a turn-off for some who can’t stand the sense of disappointment after giving something their all. A bitter aftertaste left in the mouth, ‘losers’ may be some of the most demoralized human beings.
Yet, from the ashes rises the great phoenix. The oppressed and lost, the dispirited victims of fate are the ones who become the biggest comeback kids.Tweet
Don’t you find yourself cheering for the underdog? Why is that? Because at some level, you know you’ve been there.
You’ve been the one biting back tears when you didn’t get something that you worked hard for. There’s a champion in all of us, crying out to be recognized.Tweet
When you win at a sport, you know beyond all doubt that you’re the best. Nothing else compares to knowing that victory didn’t come easily. In some small way, we’re all underdogs fighting our way through life-through failures, hard work, and resilience.
Why are sports essential in education?
When I analyzed what happened with my son, I concluded that a classroom scenario couldn’t possibly impart the knowledge sports can. I could name the benefits of sports all day, but here are a few-
· Recognizing that your self-worth has nothing to do with other people
· Realizing the importance of nonverbal communication
· Understanding responsibility and a sense of accountability
· Learning to vent frustrations in healthy ways and finding constructive solutions to problems
You will notice that I haven’t even touched upon the physical benefits of sports. Instead, the astounding social and emotional benefits of sports surpass all others in my mind. During the pandemic, my boys had emotional issues. When lockdown ended, the first thing we did was enroll them in tennis class. Voila! The problems gradually eased away. While some said it was because they made friends on the court, that wasn’t all.
For children, a sense of discipline is crucial. They need to know how to stand in a line, wait their turn, listen to cues, and play fair. These simple yet essential acts give young ones a sense of balance and stability.
The rules of sports are unspoken yet ever-present. These rules ensure that everyone plays at the same level and that all have the chance to progress. Children take what they discover on the court, in the field, to their homes, and vice versa. Therein lies the opportunity for children to display their sense of sportsmanship in real-life scenarios.
The art of losing gracefully
At some point in time, we all need to understand the art of losing gracefully. I have seen adults stomping and throwing rackets in fits of rage. It’s not a pretty sight.
History remembers those who fail gracefully. Even more so, everyone remembers those to win graciously too. A respectful handshake, a glance or fist pump towards the heavens, a solemn nod to a grandmaster- acknowledging those who made us better people is also an art.Tweet
As we traverse through life, let us not ignore all that sport has taught us. In our formative years, we gathered to cry alongside our teammates, pick up our adversaries when they fell and celebrate every small victory. Sport mimics life, and thus the cycle of our perception of relationships, emotions, discipline and self-management starts with sports in education and never ends.