Sport & Life Skills

©2013 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved The score was 0-1…my son’s hockey team was one goal down. The players were in their designated positions, marking the opposition. As the game resumed, I watched my son move away from centre half and begin running with the ball. As he approached the goal, the opposite team thundered down behind him. He was just that tiny bit ahead of them. ‘Shoot…’ my mind screamed, although I remained silent. He was seconds away from shooting the ball through the goal posts. He looked up momentarily and I could almost hear his mind thinking, weighing the possibilities, judging his chances. Just as I was getting all excited about him winning the much-needed goal, he did something that seemed inexplicable to me at that point. He passed the ball in a smooth, fluid movement to his team-mate who was waiting, tense and alert, near the goals. In went the ball, and hurrah, we were 1-1.

I learned a profound lesson about team sport and the life skills it teaches kids. It is not about personal glory. It is rather about the glory of the team as a whole. I later asked my son if he had been tempted to shoot through the goals. He hadn’t. According to him, his team-mate stood a greater chance of succeeding because of how he was positioned on the field.

That’s the great thing about team sport. It teaches one to look at the bigger picture, weigh the pros and cons and act accordingly. It teaches reliability. So often, just the thought of letting your team down is enough to get kids onto the field on freezing winter mornings. It teaches solidarity. On those occasions when the team has lost an important game, it is heart-touching to see them embrace each other, pat each others’ shoulders and say ‘There’s always next time’. It teaches sportsmanship. After all, life is all about winning and losing. It teaches responsibility. Every player has a duty towards his or her team to give their very best on the day. I often hear lots of kids say they want to sleep early to be able wake up on time and perform at their peak for an important game. And the most important, according to me, is it teaches time management. If you are late, you let your team down.

As one grows into an adult, all these qualities will be called upon at different milestones in our lives. I am certain that lots of people look back into their childhoods and realize that many of their life-skills were first learned on a sports field.

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