In June, Juliana W. Miner of The Washington Post reported that 70 percent of children quit playing sports by the age of 13 because they’re not having fun anymore. This is a real shame! Given the fact that one in five children between the ages of six and 19 are, according to the Center for Disease Control, obese, and one in three children are overweight, it could be argued that athletics are more important for young people than ever — especially as they enter the crucial years before adulthood. The habits formed in these years can shape the rest of their lives.
Physical fitness is definitely one reason why high school students should play sports, but not the only reason. When your child is an online high school student, there are several important aspects of athletic participation that go beyond the simple need for 60 minutes of vigorous activity each day. Sports offer important opportunities and life lessons that the classroom — traditional or digital — just cannot provide.
Make no mistake: we are not suggesting that every teenager should be gunning for a full basketball scholarship to Duke University or setting their hopes on a spot on the U.S. gymnastic team. Rather, simple involvement in sports has value because of the doors that open to other areas of development. Athletic participation offers more to young people than an accurate jump shot (although that’s a nice skill to have, too).
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that the online high school students enjoy when they step away from the laptop and onto the playing field.
The Big 10: Our favorite reasons why online high school students should play sports
- Sports teach kids how to win. Pro golfer Jack Nicklaus once said that youngsters need to learn how to win. Winners, Nicklaus explained, need to learn how respond to pressure. They need to make mistakes so they could learn not to make them again. They must learn how to compartmentalize those mistakes and work around them. Winners understand that every competition — like every day of life — has a unique rhythm and pace. Understand the flow, avoid catastrophic errors and keep moving towards your goal! These lessons translate well on the golf course, the classroom, the workplace and almost any other aspect of life.
- Sports teach kids how to lose. “Trying to make everything go perfectly for your kids is exhausting,” writes Sharon Martin, LCSW, of the Happily Imperfect blog. “But worse, you’re not doing them any favors by helping them avoid mistakes.”
One of the healthiest places to make a mistake is on the field of play. The agony of defeat can be experienced during an athletic competition, analyzed and then left behind. Ultimately, the score of a high school soccer game or a Babe Ruth League baseball game should have little impact on a youngster’s life (parents: this is an important lesson for you, too), but the takeaways from a loss — what did I do wrong? How can our team improve? How could I have prepared differently? — are inherently valuable.
- Sports teach kids the importance of competition. Competition should be a joy, a puzzle to be solved, and that energy can carry over to every part of life.
“There is a misconception that competition is bad; that self-esteem will be affected if a child loses. BUT to lose, is not to be a Loser,” the A&C Field Hockey Academy in Mississauga, Ontario, explains. “If a child can experience the thrill of winning and the disappointment of losing early in life through competitive sports, they will be well equipped for the reality of life. Competition provides motivation to achieve a goal; to demonstrate determination, creativity and perseverance to overcome challenges; and to understand that hard work and commitment leads to a greater chance of success.” Wise words.
- Sports give kids a chance to be part of a team. Do you think that sharing ideas, increasing efficiency, developing strengths and negotiating complicated relationships will be important to your child’s future success? Team sports offer microcosms of situations that students find in everyday life. Sports provide opportunities to enjoy the camaraderie (and work through the challenges) that come from being in close quarters with one’s peers for extended periods of time.
- Sports offer kids a chance to get coached. Your child may be a natural athlete, but she’s not going to improve by simply winging it on her own. Her ability to hone her skills will depend on the mentoring she receives from the coaches in her life.
“Coaching is an interactive process that helps another person learn something, or take performance to the next level,” notes the American Management Association. The sooner your child learns how to accept — and participate — in the process of being coached, by athletic instructors, teachers, mentors or managers, the faster she’ll mature and grow.
- Sports provide physical fitness. Sure, we all know that physical activity is good for our kids, right? Do you realize, however, just how important that it is to their long-term health and wellness?
“There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence on the positive effects of sport and physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle,” SportsAndDev.org, a website operated by the Swiss Academy for Development, reports. “The positive, direct effects of engaging in regular physical activity are particularly apparent in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis.”
No one wants to see their child suffer. Sometimes, that’s a reason to allow them to avoid physical activity. Sports can be hard work, losing isn’t much fun and getting into game shape may involve strenuous conditioning which, again, is not as entertaining as a few hours of video games. The truth, however, is that allowing your children to lose their physical fitness sets them up for very unpleasant problems for the rest of their lives.
- Sports offer a great chance to socialize. Online high school students need to embrace opportunities to spend time with their peers. Team activities provide regular, regimented interaction with other young people. Practices and games offer a chance for kids to talk, exercise, goof around and bond as a team — with the added bonus of adult supervision and guidance.
- Sports give kids a chance to travel. We’re not even referencing major road trips to other areas around the country or overseas. Sometimes, it can be a thrill for a young person just to get out of their hometown. As a young person growing up in small-town Western New York, I remember the thrill of playing a football game in Bradner Stadium in Olean, N.Y. — I didn’t know at the time that Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers had played there years earlier, or that the stadium had existed since 1922. All I knew was that I had a chance to travel a few hours to play in a stadium that, to my teenage eyes, looked and felt like the Rose Bowl. It was a thrill I remember to this day.
- Sports teach kids how to play by the rules. Rules can be frustrating, limiting, infuriating — especially when you believe that an official is interpreting them incorrectly — but they are the foundation of sports and society. Learning to compete with as a sportsman within the rules of a game is a great way for a young person to learn the importance of fair play, ethical behavior and self-control.
- Sports give your kids time to hang out with you. Teenagers are sometimes mortified to spend time with their parents. Sports, however, give you a chance to get your child and her peers together in your car as you drive them to a game; opportunities to take them to dinner after a tough competition; and even time to show them some of your own moves on the practice field. Who knows? Maybe your children will finally realize how cool you really are.
Want a more flexible educational opportunity for your child?
George Washington University Online High School provides both an elite education and real flexibility for young people who want to prepare for a successful future while embracing their interests today. If you think that online education is right for your family, visit GWUOHS online today.