It’s not just dribbling.
When our kids are growing up, we want to teach them the life lessons they’ll need as an adult. But we want them to learn these lessons in an environment where the stakes aren’t as high – one where they can make mistakes and fail, and we can help them along the way as they grow from those mistakes.
Youth sports is one of the best ways to teach our kids these lessons.
Created in 1891 at a YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts by Canadian immigrant Dr. James Naismith, basketball is one of the quintessential All-American sports. Here are six important lessons your kid learns playing hoops:
1. How to win
Playing basketball teaches you what it takes to focus on a goal in the moment, and not become intimidated by opponents, hecklers, and naysayers around you. When crunch time comes in the final seconds of the game, you learn to quiet your mind and focus only on what you can control. You learn to acknowledge the butterflies in your stomach, but not let them affect your performance on the court.
And when the buzzer sounds, you learn something even more important – how to be gracious in victory. You don’t gloat in your opponents’ face, you shake hands after the game knowing that the next time you face off, you may be in their shoes.
2. How to lose
Your learn from winning, but even more from losing. You ask yourself what went wrong, and how can I improve next time? But it can be easy to get stuck in a pattern of negative thought after a loss. Learning to lose the right way means feeling disappointment in the moment, but not dwelling on it. Instead, you take your disappointment and turn it into something positive. You put it into action, and use the memory of that loss as motivation to work even harder. When you learn how to lose, you find that winning becomes that much easier.
3. How to work with teammates
In life, you alone aren’t responsible for your success. The same is true on the court. No matter how talented you are, or how strong of a leader you are, you can’t succeed without your teammates. You can’t play 1-on-5. Some days, you don’t play your best, but you can still win if your teammates are willing to lift you up – and vice versa. The greatest victories – on the court and in life – can only be achieved together.
4. How to be coached
You can’t be a leader until you’ve learned how to work as part of a team. The coach is the leader of your team, and you have to be willing to take instruction from that authority, to work within a structure where you don’t have full control. You can’t always spot your own mistakes, and you must learn to rely on the wisdom and experience of your coach to help you improve.
5. How to lead
Once you’ve earned the trust of your teammates and coaches, you can become a leader. It starts with setting an example. If you work hard and improve as a result, your teammates will follow your lead. You must also know your teammates well, and realize that each of them will be motivated differently. Some will follow your example, and some will respond better when you challenge them directly. Leading with empathy, a positive attitude, and a strong work ethic – whether you’re winning or losing – inspires your teammates to do the same.
6. How to work when no one is watching
This is the most important lesson your kid can learn playing basketball. Practice – not a game – is where success, both personal and team, is determined. The more you want to improve, the more you need to train and practice. If you haven’t prepared for the game, there’s almost no chance you’ll win. Even when your teammates aren’t around, you have to keep working. Be a gym rat. If you missed most of the jumpshots you took in the last game, stay after practice and work to improve your technique and confidence. First and foremost, you have to be accountable to yourself. No one else can do it for you. Basketball teaches you that personal accountability and responsibility is the biggest key to success – on the court, and in the real world.
These six lessons will help any young kid to improve herself, push through adversity, and foster a belief in self that will serve her far beyond her days on the court.