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Will team sports develop leadership in my child?

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As parents, we know that regular physical activity can help children and teens improve cardiorespiratory fitness, strengthen bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to reduce the risk of developing health problems. We’ve also been told that team sports, in particular, are great for helping teach children important leadership and life skills.

With so much emphasis on the benefits of sport, many parents are rushing to sign their kids up for team sports – rather than other types of additional murals – in the hopes that it will help. not only to improve the health of their children, but also to foster discipline, teamwork and critical thinking in their children. It is common to hear phrases like “rugby teaches discipline” or “football teaches teamwork”. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

The value of sport

Hearing someone say that ‘rugby teaches leadership’ doesn’t sound shocking, if a friend of yours suggested that ‘finger paint teaches leadership’ you would look at them in disbelief. The source of this disbelief comes from what has become a common understanding of the value of sport.

These understandings are that sport ‘naturally’ teaches ‘leadership’, ‘teamwork’ or ‘critical thinking’. In turn, these understandings have become deeply ingrained in how society values ​​sport. While there is some evidence that sport – when delivered in the right way – can help young people develop, the picture is more complex.

For example, one of the most common perceptions about the value of team sports is that they teach “teamwork”. But it may well be that little teamwork is learned when more competent players become frustrated with teammates for having inferior technical and tactical skills. Or less skilled teammates feel inadequate and unwanted due to their limited abilities. And that’s why we have to be careful about the supposed educational value of rugby (or any other sport) compared to any other activity – like finger painting.

It’s not what your kid does, it’s the way they do it

Before signing your child up for a team sport, make sure that he or she really wants to play that particular sport. While a sense of belonging is important for children, it is important that they participate in an activity they love, with people they love, while also feeling a part of something bigger.

The hidden variable

Team sport by itself does not improve youth development, unlike the “hidden” variables of passion, relationships and sense of belonging. Thus, when it comes to the social and psychological development of young people, the focus should not be on the sport to be played, but on how the sport is used.

Sports can be a great educational tool, but so can many other interests or activities. And instilling passion, relationships, and a sense of belonging is something any activity – like finger painting or stamp collecting – can accomplish.

As the saying goes “it’s not what you do, it’s the way you do it”, and it couldn’t be more obvious.