Youth Sports Teach Children and Parents Valuable Life Lessons


I am terrible at sports. In fact, I stink at anything remotely athletic. As a kid, I did not find youth sports enjoyable. The idea of a friendly family game of softball or soccer literally makes my stomach hurt. PE was anxiety-inducing.

This is particularly shameful because I come from a long line of great athletes. I have family members that are amazing wrestlers and football players and even some cousins who played D1 volleyball and softball in college. My own father still holds pitching records at his high school. As I embarked on my parenthood journey, I convinced myself that my children would be bookworms and artists. No sports for my kiddos, thankyouverymuch.

Spoiler alert. Your children have their own interests and personalities. Yup, it’s true . . . they are their own people. Annoying, I know!

Youth Sports Teach Children and Parents Valuable Life LessonsWhen my oldest son was eight or nine, he asked us to play tackle football. What in the world? Where would he get such an idea? I was dead set against it. Nope, not my baby. My husband took him and registered him to play and gently reminded me that we need to support our children in everything they do even if it is not something we envision as an ideal activity. 

Long story short, three of my children are extremely athletic. My sad, anti-athletic genes skipped them. They love sports and not Shakespeare. And now I am “that” sports mom, and I have a million football mom t-shirts to prove it. Cool, cool. Here is what I have learned 12 years into this sports mom gig. 

Youth sports teach children AND parents valuable life lessons.

Youth Sports Teach Discipline

Sports teach discipline to children in multiple forms. As my children got older and sports became more competitive, they learned they had to put in the work if they wanted to play.  Especially in high school, not everyone gets to play. Athletes have to show up to practice and put in the work. Even more important, they must do their schoolwork! In high school, you cannot have terrible grades and still be eligible to play. This requires discipline and time management.  

Not Everything Is About You

Teamwork is key. Athletes learn they have to work together with their teammates and coaches in order to be successful. They have to depend on each other and everyone needs to do their job. Teamwork carries on into the adult world. As an adult, we are often part of a bigger picture within our organizations and professions.  

Youth Sports Teach Leadership

Youth sports teach leadership and not always in the form of the team captain. I have watched quarterbacks or pitchers beat themselves up over losing a game. I have seen the heartbreak of the basketball player who missed the winning shot. I’m always watching for the teammate that immediately rushes to their side to build them up and let them know that it’s okay. I have seen kids struggling to finish a drill, and I always watch for the teammate who runs over to complete the drill by their side.

Those kids are the leaders. A true leader is empathic and has integrity and always leads by example. At the end of the day, I want to see my child cheering other kids on and building others up. That is winning–that is leadership in the game of life. 

Life Is Not Always Fair

At the end of the day no matter how hard they work, sometimes they lose. That is tough to watch as a parent–to see that heartbreak. But that is an inevitable part of life. Life is not always fair. Learning to lose a game graciously is a vital life lesson that youth sports can teach.

What Have I Learned from Youth Sports as a Parent?

Good sportsmanship begins with parents. Children look to their parents for cues. It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of the game. Of course, it is frustrating to watch your child’s team lose. But parents, please note that no matter how many times you scream that the other team is being too rough or heckle the referees, it doesn’t change the outcome and it sets a horrible example to your athlete. If we expect our children to lose gracefully, we need to model that as well. 

Enjoy the Little Moments

As a parent, youth sports are a huge commitment for you and your child. Parents give up some (a lot) of their free time, work time, and often sleep. They are driving kids around to daily practices and games. I was often rushing from work to pick up my boys and rush them to their various practice fields and games. Quickly, I learned to really treasure that time in the car. 

I know it sounds crazy, but I really enjoyed that time talking to the kids and listening to them talk about their days as we crammed fast food into our mouths while rushing to practice. My youngest athlete is now on the cusp of driving alone and I would give anything for more of that special car time. However, I don’t miss the smell of sweaty football pads and stinky cleats. You don’t have to treasure everything

Success comes in other forms than wins and losses. Youth sports teach children discipline, empathy for others, and that life is not always fair–and that is far more important than any tournament win or state title. 

Originally published July 2021.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.



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