Why sports and games are necessary

EducationWorld July 14 | EducationWorld

DESPITE REPORTS OF SPORTS icons and even mid-range sports professionals ” especially cricketers ” earning huge retainers, bonuses and endorsement incomes, many parents believe sports and games are frivolous extra-curricular activities unconnected with education. Yet participation in sports is an integral part of every child™s education experience, because there™s much more to sports and games than is commonly believed.
For a start, sports education offers children and adults a wonderful metaphor for understanding the dynamics of the world around us (business, politics, etc) and our personal lives within that world. More specifically, track and field contests are microcosmic dramas, with familiar ups and downs ” jubilation and depression, anger and calm, success and failure ” that confront adults in the drama of our daily lives. In sport, we experience every possible emotion and psychological state, as we (athletes, coaches, parents, fans) are forced to respond to constantly changing circumstances.
Sports as a microcosm of life can teach youth more than learning how to kick, throw a ball, or play a game. And while winning on the scoreboard may be a goal, if it™s the only goal, then much is lost for young sportspersons and coaches, parents and fans who are all part of the experience.
Indeed, participation in sports and games provides numerous opportunities for learning valuable life lessons, building self-esteem, and experiencing healthy and physically active lifestyles. Professionals, researchers, and especially wise old grandparents, will tell you that sports lead to balanced development which is the foundation for future success.
There are myriad reasons for appreciating that sports are more than just a footnote in the schooling experience. They offer great opportunities to achieve personal, motivational and community objectives. The benefits of sports education include:
Fitness for life. Sports and play develop strength, flexibility, balance, and body control ” be it by kicking or dribbling a football, serving a tennis ball, walking the balance beam, running bases, or shooting a basket. Playing sports also gets kids off the couch and into exercise. Moreover, all games and sports provide opportunities to learn and improve no matter where or when you begin.
Setting and striving for goals. Successful people set short and long-term goals and focus on achieving them. Organised play offers valuable lessons in setting individual and team goals and striving to achieve them. At the outset, the skills of a young athlete or accomplishment of a team don™t matter. Goals can be set for improvement and a plan of action mapped out to attain them. This learning and improvement process can later be extended to vital areas of our working lives.
Discipline. Sports and games teach discipline in a palatable way even as children participate in activities they enjoy. Discipline is necessary to learn skills and maximise performance. Children learn that if they develop the discipline to improve and excel, performance rewards follow.
Real self-esteem and confidence. Observe a young player™s joy after manoeuvring a tricky shot into a soccer net. Notice the radiant grin of a kid making a three-point shot for the first time, or hitting a six in a cricket match. Self-esteem can be built through hard work on playing fields. Every young person should be encouraged to visualise herself as a successful sportsperson just as she is encouraged to imagine herself as a scientist, academic or medical practitioner.
Interdependence and teamwork. The brotherhood of sports encourages children to learn teamwork and cooperation to attain winning goals. Team sports teach kids to be self-reliant while drawing on the strengths of others. In field games and track events, kids learn how to help and assist teammates. By working together, they learn to acquire synergies ” as essential in sports arenas as in classrooms.
Dealing with success and failure. Children can learn how to be proud of success without disparaging their opponents. Facing challenges in sports also teaches young people how to deal with failure ” temporary setbacks from which lessons can be learned.
Determination and perseverance. Sports and games teach children how to push boundaries and transcend their physical and mental limitations. Most kids instinctively know they must work hard to achieve set goals. But on playing fields, they have the advantage of getting advice from coaches and teammates.
However, it™s important to note that sports education doesn™t automatically teach life skills, help personal development and grow self-esteem. What it does is give us opportunities to develop these virtues while engaging in pleasurable activity.
(Dr. George A. Selleck is a San Francisco-based advisor to EduSports, Bangalore)

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