If you grew up playing sports, you're aware of the lifelong impact they have on athletes. It doesn't matter if you were a starter, the star player, or the team captain... the lessons learned are necessary life skills that all athletes subconsciously use to grow as individuals. You never really forget the memories, the friendships, and the accomplishments that are brought to life from competitive sports.
Lesson 1: Self-Confidence
I'm not just talking about self-confidence in our physical appearance because, of course, we all have our days where we just don't feel 100% about ourselves. More importantly, I'm referring to the confidence it takes to make decisions. The confidence to stand up for what we believe in. The confidence to pave our own path and the confidence to second-guess ourselves less often. Are any of us perfect at these things? Absolutely not. But the mindset is there; the foundation of being able to make a decision without always wondering if it was the right choice is built partially in thanks to athletics.
Think about it... in sports, there are, at maximum, a few seconds to make a choice, and whether or not it's the right one [the right shot, the right pass, the right play], the choice is yours to make. The choice is yours and in that moment, you only get one chance. Not only do sports force you to make those quick decisions but require you to have confidence in them.
Lesson 2: Balance
When we look back on our ever-so-stressful high school days [haha] what do we think of? Homework, exams, drama, our crush from first period, and how busy we'll be with all of this during our sport season. Not that stress feels a whole lot easier as we age, but these small, mindless stressors were preparing us for something much bigger. Adulting.
"How in the world am I supposed to balance all of my school work with practices and games while still making time for my friends," we'd think to ourselves. This was our biggest worry in the world and somehow, as 14 to 18-year-olds, we managed to make it work. Sure, sometimes that meant late nights finishing up a project or missing a school event with friends for practice, but sports showed us that with fun, comes work. You can have both, but it will be more like 70% work / 30% fun to be successful. We find our balance, but earn a few mental growth spurts along the way.
Lesson 3: Communication Skills
It just doesn't feel much easier at 23 than it did in high school. Almost as easy as a Chinese finger trap.
In almost any sport, what is the one thing you can never un-hear your past coaches say as they called for a time-out?
"WHY IS NO ONE TALKING OUT THERE?! YOU GUYS NEED TO COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL AS A TEAM!" Yeah, yeah, okay coach...we got it. Get loud.
Just like everything else in life, teams will not succeed without communication.
Lesson 4: Healthy Habits
The last thing athletes want to do at the end of "such a long day" is go to practice for 2 hours.
In high school, other than sports and (forced) gym classes, you don't hear of many kids that are active because they just want to do it. Majority of athletes work out for their sport, not necessarily by choice or for pleasure.
As these athletes age and start realizing that they need to remain active / fuel their bodies properly to avoid the freshman 15, athletics has given them some sort of background knowledge on how to start. Eat a little less, move a little more.
Lesson 5: Cherishing Memories
Sports seasons were some of the best days of my life. Car rides with your teammates / best friends, scoring the winning goal, making it to regionals, progressing as an athlete. All of these are things I could never forget.
I played sports for as long as I can remember; once I knew I was done at the end of my senior year, it was one of the hardest things to leave behind. Hold the good times close in your heart, whether that be athletics or anything else.
Once an athlete, always an athlete.
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