10 Life Skills Sport Gives Your Kids

14/08/2014 17:04 | Updated 20 May 2015

12 life skills sport gives your kids

Once again, it has been an incredible summer of sport.

From the football World Cup, to Wimbledon, to the Commonwealth Games, we just can't get enough of watching in awe as the world's elite sportsmen and women perform for our pleasure.

How inspiring was Germany's 7-1 humbling of host nation Brazil, for example?

How heartwarming was 13-year-old Erraid Davies's bronze medal in the Commonwealth swimming pool?

How awesome was Novak Djokovic's destruction of the incredible Roger Federer?

If you and your children have been left inspired after the incredible summer we've had, you can get the whole family buzzing with the fantastic offer from Capital One. Visit for your chance to take up to five kids to your football club's Round 1 game for just £1 each when you buy a full-price adult ticket.

Makes you want to put on a kit and get active, doesn't it?

Or at least (if you're of the Armchair Spectator persuasion, as I am) to get your kids up and out there. Because it's an indisputable fact that participating in sport is one of the best things you can ever encourage your children to do.

Be it football or rugby, tennis or badminton, swimming or cycling, gymnastics or – er – darts (yes darts, but more of that later), getting your kids involved with sport will equip them with skills that will set them up for life.

OK, not everyone can win the World Cup, or Wimbledon, or an Olympic or Commonwealth gold, silver or bronze medal.

But there's way more to sport than finishing top.

You know the saying: "It's the taking part that counts."

Which isn't altogether true: "It's COMPETING that counts aka Trying Your Best."

Competition teaches our kids about the world beyond childhood more than anything.

It shows them that putting in maximum effort and trying to be as good as you can be will reap rewards; but it also teaches them that life is sometimes grossly unfair – because no matter how much effort they put in, there's always a bigger, stronger, faster, uglier bar-steward who can put them in their place (see 'Brazil-Germany', above!)

But competitiveness isn't the only life skill playing sport can give your kids. Sports, whether team-based or individual, are a great activity for children that provide a variety of benefits other than physical activity.

Participation in sports can help build self-esteem and confidence, can motivate children to excel academically and can help build social skills.

Here are 10 more life skills – and the sports that best exemplify these benefits.

1. Active lifestyle for life

Too many kids today spend a ludicrous amount of time watching TV or playing video games, partly because (it has to be said) TV and video games are fun, but also because many school playing fields have been sold off.

It's one of the reasons why we have a childhood obesity crisis. Organised sport participation is the remedy.

Once children get into the habit of running, jumping, sweating and having a great time, they never lose it.

Best sports: Any (with the exception of darts and snooker!)

2. Getting along with people

Teenagers might THINK their best mate in the whole wide world is the one they've just met on the World Wide Web through SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook and loads of other social media platforms I'm too old to know about.

But why be a keyboard warrior when you can have real-time interaction with real flesh and blood human beings? Sport is brilliant way for children to develop social skills that will benefit them throughout their entire lives.

They learn to interact not only with other children their age, but also with older individuals in their coaches and sports officials. Kids learn leadership skills, team-building skills and communication skills that will help them in school, their future career and personal relationships.

Think about it: the best teams – football, rugby, hockey, you name it – thrive on communication.

The most successful have vocal players who are constantly talking to each other about where they're at and where they should be; anticipating problems, admonishing mistakes. Best sports: Football, rugby, hockey, netball, basketball,

3. Confidence

If you've ever scored a goal, netted a ball, hit a six, whacked an Ace, scored a home run or won a race, you'll know the feeling well: supreme confidence aka Top of the Worldness. There is no feeling like it.

Look at the reaction of England's Adam Jameli in the Commonwealth 100 metre sprint the other night. He was bursting with pride, bouncing with confidence – and he 'only' won silver. That's what sport gives you: the feeling you can conquer anything – even if you haven't!

4. Set backs and attacks

Sport isn't all about winning – losing is a huge part of the experience too (I speak with wisdom, believe me).

But what do sports-people do when they miss a penalty or fail to save one? Hide under their duvets, cry into their pillows, refuse to come out to play ever again?

Nope. None of that self-pitying nonsense. Sportsfolks dust themselves down, choke back the disappointment and get back onto the field or track to try again.

Setbacks are a great skin-thickening rite of passage. They teach you that nothing is forever; that disappointments are as fleeting as triumphs.

And that criticism – ideally constructive –is there to help improve you.

Imagine your child having that attitude to life when something doesn't quite work out the way they would have liked in the classroom? Imagine the stead the thickness of that skin will set them in.

5. Dealing with authority

I'm stating the obvious, but we're all different and have different points of view – and that's a valuable lesson children can learn from sport. There is no better illustration of this fact that than the conflict created by a referee's disputed decision.

The petulant throw their arms up in horror and continue to protest; the mature get on with the game knowing that the referee is not only unlikely to change his mind – but simply won't. Ever. Wind your neck in and get on with your job.

6. Managing conflict

How on earth do rugby players manage to stay friends after a match in which they pretty much try to tear the heads off each others' shoulders in the pursuit of victory?

Why do boxers hug each other after punching each other in the face as hard as they can for half an hour?

Because it's all part of the sport. They know it isn't personal.

They appreciate that the other guy is just doing their job, no matter how battered and bruised that other guy has left them.

Hell, they even manage to be friends afterwards.

7. Concentration, focus and never-say die attitude

The elite tennis players are probably the most focused, single-minded sports-people in the world.

Global superstars like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer don't play a 'match', as such – they play every point.

Every single point is a new beginning for them. This is how they manage to come back from two sets down to win 3-2 when us mere mortals would have thrown in the towel at the end of the second set. Yet at the same time, they always have the big picture – the result of the match – in mind.

Such skills would be a boon for anyone in life: live in the moment; one step-at-a-time – but without ever losing focus of what you're trying to achieve long term.

8. Sense of identity

It doesn't matter whether you are fat, thin, tall or short, when you pull on your team's shirt, you are part of a family: you belong.

A rugby playing friend of mine told me how he moved to Canada when he was a teenager and didn't know a soul. All that changed the moment he joined an amateur rugby club.

"I went into the dressing room and instantly had 20 new friends," he said.

9. How to follow the rules

Sport isn't anarchistic. It's based on agreed rules that all participants accept and abide by (OK, some disputed, but let's move on) pretty much as we (most of us) abide by the laws of society.

This is a great life skill to learn as early as possible: that not everyone in life revolves around you and your desires; that you need to fit in and play the game (unless you own the ball, in which case, you can always take it home if things aren't going your way).

10. Self-discipline

To be good at sport, your kids need to get up in the morning to be at a certain place at a certain time; they need to keep themselves in shape so they're not embarrassed on the park when they play their rival school. These are life skills the modern workplace demands, too.

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