Monday, February 13, 2006

Overcoming Adversity Through Sports

It is an excellent thing to learn to overcome adversity. One of the best places to learn this lesson is in the context of an athletic team. Sports teams inevitably have their ups and downs. It is natural to fail often in sports. So it is frequently necessary to pick oneself up after failure and soldier on. When others depend on you, voluntary failure is much tougher to come by.

The child who plays a sport on an athletic team learns this lesson. He can sit at school or at home all day and never have to overcome much hardship. He does his homework, and watches some tv, and grumbles through some chores, but he rarely looks failure in the eye. Sure, he lets his parents down, but that doesn’t really bother him. Put him on a field, though, and place some dependency from teammates on his shoulders, and he faces a whole new ballgame (literally). He will naturally encounter some difficult situations in this setting. His feelings will be hurt, his weaknesses will be exposed, and he will be forced to spur himself on through adversity. He will learn endurance and tenacity in these situations, and grow as a person. In later life, when school or work or family life grows difficult, he will have a reserve to draw on and experience to remember. Team sports teaches many valuable lessons, but few are more valuable than the need to persevere through difficulty.

I can look back at my own life and attest to the great value of adversity faced and conquered. Moments of struggle come quickly to the mind. Getting cut from the varsity squad, losing in the playoffs, being injured, coming back from a huge deficit--all these experiences involved adversity. All of them taught me hugely valuable lessons. I learned that I could not let emotion trump principle. As badly as I may have felt at a certain time, I was forced to press on and seek some recovery of dignity or measure of achievement. The lessons learned in such times were not easy at the moment. Many were quite painful. But today, as I face a busy schedule, challenges with coworkers and acquaintances, and my own sin, I have a reserve to draw from. That result was built by adversity faced and overcome. Children, and all of us, need that, and for that reason, we need team sports.


Blogger Señor Limpio said...

So how would you square that with the potential prudence of home-schooling? Is there a way for home-schoolers to give their kids the same benefits of team sports that public school kids might have?

As a former public-schooler myself, I can testify about how much perseverance and character I built through softball, basketball, track, cross-country, and rowing. How is a discriminating parent to make such choices?

6:46 PM  
Blogger Señor Limpio said...

Upon reflection, I think I should also just make one presumption explicit: much of the foundation for later athletic or competitive skill is laid in earlier years, when children are learning to put forth effort. Apart from the occasional three-legged race or pickup baseball game, how does a home-schooler provide opportunities for his children's athletic or competitive development? I am a firm believer in developing well-rounded kids with wide-ranging interests and skills, including those of the "physical arts."

6:51 PM  

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