Most parents enroll their children in team sports for the physical fitness, with the goal to keep them active and healthy. Depending on the type of sport, physical activity can improve fitness, flexibility, strength, co-ordination, as well as muscular, bone and cardio-vascular health. But the non-physical elements of team sport are just as important.
Working with others to achieve a common goal is rewarding. This may be to complete a simple drill or win a challenging match. They learn that each individual player needs to contribute positively; to work hard and display a positive attitude for the team as a whole to be successful. Team sport encourages positive collaboration by recognising and utilising each player’s strengths and supporting and encouraging each other to be the best versions of themselves. Collaboration ultimately builds social and emotional skills crucial not just in sport, but in life.
Communication is imperative in team sports. This may include verbal and non-verbal communication. In team sports, kids need to develop listening skills, process information and follow directions in both training and in game situations. Interpreting information from a coach and teammate is vital to team cohesion. Following prompts and cues quickly in a game situation is also beneficial. These skills may then be transferred into the classroom.
For kids, loosing a sporting match is their first introduction to building resilience. Loosing at times can be frustrating and disengaging. However, the ability to find fun and joy in being part of a team often overshadows the need for winning. Team sports may help kids to develop grit and determination to get better in many aspects of their life.
Following the team rules and expectations can help build organisational. To be part of a successful team, every member needs to commit to showing up to training and matches on time, and in the right gear. This builds a sense of responsibility and self-management skills.
Team sports can develop healthy habits in kids. Sports can help kids establish routine and structure into their life. Managing school, a part time job and footy training for example, empowers kids to have the motivation and drive to be active and involved in extra curricular activities. Healthy habits in exercise, sleep and nutrition may also result.
Team sports provide kids with a sense of connection. Being surrounded by likeminded people all striving for the same goal makes kids feel as though they are part of something special. This may assist emotional and social wellbeing. Team sports provide the opportunity for friendships to form. Sportsmanship and leadership skills may also result. A coach may also become a mentor and role model. And putting on a uniform and representing club forges a sense of belonging. Connection is one of the biggest benefits of team sports.
A child’s world is small. They innately think about themselves first and everyone and everything second. Think about the concept of sharing. It is one of life’s hardest first lessons, and it has to be taught. Empathy is another social and emotional concept that needs time to develop.
So what is empathy? Empathy can be defined as the ability to be aware of, perceive, understand, and be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of others. It can be demonstrated by expressing a supportive response.
We all want our children to grow up to be empathetic, caring and compassionate people. Empathy is a key ingredient in positive friendships and relationships. It reduces conflicts and misunderstandings and leads to helping behavior, kindness and even greater success in life in general.
Because cognitive abilities and life experiences develop over time, it is important to introduce the concept of empathy at an early age.
So … how to teach a child empathy?
Resolve conflicts through words
Praise empathetic behaviors
Embrace difference and diversity in others
Identify feelings and emotions
Observe current events