PARENTS

10 Reasons Why You Should Encourage Your Children To Play And Watch Sport

14/04/2015 10:03 | Updated 13 June 2015

10 reasons why you should encourage your children to play and watch sport

Let's face it, not every child is of the sporty persuasion. In our family, until recently, only the 13-year-old girl showed any interest in sport, playing netball, hockey and football for her school, as well as cheerleading and swimming in tournaments across the region.

Her brothers, though, showed little or no interest in either watching or participating in sport, aside from in the virtual world of FIFA 15 on the Xbox or tennis on Wii.

But inspired by the example of their big sister, the boys – now aged 10 and seven – gradually started to raise an eyebrow towards the TV when a football match was showing, and then raised their hands in class to volunteer for their primary school's cross country and football teams.

Granted, they're not great, and they'll certainly never make a living from sport, but their interest has been transformational.

And here's how....

IT IMPROVES THEIR FITNESS

Obviously! There's a national epidemic of childhood obesity. Very, very few of these overweight children are sportsfolk.

IT ENCOURAGES TEAM WORK

Glory goes to goal scorers, of course, but it's just as rewarding to play a part in that goal: the tackle that sparks the move, the pass that releases the forward. And the euphoria of celebrating a victory together is like no other. This is a metaphor your children can take into the classroom: 11 heads are better than one!

IT FORGES A CLOSER RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR KIDS

Watching or playing sport with your children will create a bond that will be unshakable for the rest of your lives – and create harmony in the household. Whether it's a kickaround in the garden, or supporting the same football team, sport creates amazing memories and super-strength bonds that will last forever.

IT TEACHES GOAL SETTING

Children can strive to set personal bests and gain confidence in their abilities, which helps them achieve success in school and in their personal relationships. All of which, of course, is great preparation for when they become adults.

IT HELPS KIDS OVERCOME ADVERSITY

Football coach Kevin Kush writes in his book, The 100-Yard Classroom: "The greatest gift of sports to its participants is the opportunity to learn how to overcome adversity in a safe and controlled environment."

By encouraging your child to make and keep a commitment to a sports team or other extracurricular school activity, you are teaching him how to overcome adversity, which is critical for success in life.

IT IMPROVES THEIR READING AND LITERACY

Like most parents of boys, I found it very difficult to get my sons interested in reading. They'd comply with our 20 minute sessions every night, but after that they'd return to their gadgets or Lego.

And then I bought them a Match of the Day magazine (one each – because they refused to share) and they were hooked: every week they'd pester me for the latest issue so they could read up on their favourite players, post-match analysis and transfer news.

This ignited a thirst for reading beyond colourful graphics and big photos – they wanted to let their imaginations draw the pictures for them.

And thus both boys – even though they are separated by three years – are now racing through Dan Freedman's excellent Jamie Johnson series.

Dan says on his website: "The idea behind the books was a very simple one: I wanted to write the kind of books that I would have loved to have read when I was younger." Mission accomplished!

IT TEACHES THEM HISTORY

There's so much more to sport than the here and now and what comes next: history plays a huge part, be it a post mortem of last night's cup tie or a walk down memory lane about the history of the Olympics (who could forget the moment Usain Bolt smashed the 100 metre world record with his astonishing 9.69 second sprint at Beijing in 2008?). Names, dates, facts, figures, context – that's what history's all about.

IT'S A GREAT WAY TO SEE THE WORLD

OK, it might cost a few quid, but there is no better excuse than following sport to see parts of the world you'd never think of visiting. Australia for The Ashes; Russia for the Football World Cup; Brazil for the Olympics. Combine the world's greatest sporting tournaments with a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and tick both boxes.

IT'S A GREAT WAY TO LEARN MATHS AND PHYSICS

Wins, losses, draws, goals for, goals against, tries scored, runs made, wickets taken, aces hit. At the end of the day, these statistics are what sport boils down to.

Equally, physics comes to life via the wonder of angles and trajectories: kick a ball with the front of your toes and it will go in a straight line straight into the groin of an unfortunate defending player and will thus deny your team a goal.

Caress it with your instep at the bottom of the ball in an upward trajectory and it will float over the wall like a gossamer feather and send the goalie flailing around like a drowning man – and you will become an instant legend.

IT'S CHARACTER BUILDING

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger and sport is as much about failing as it is succeeding – it's how you react to faiure that counts. Get knocked down, get back up, try, try, try again – until you succeed.

History's greatest ever basketball player Michael Jordan said: "I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Not allowing your child to give up when he is afraid of failing or being rejected by friends, or is tired of working hard builds character that can propel your child into life as a successful, productive adult.

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