“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi
The physical benefits of sports seem obvious. Sports allow children to be active in a world that makes it easy to remain inactive. Playing sports can boost motor development and encourages an interest in overall healthy habits. However, the skills and benefits an athlete obtains from playing sports go well beyond the physical. As Coach Lombardi references, the lessons learned from playing sports are things an athlete can take with them for the rest of their lives. These benefits far exceed the circle of sport.
Because sports provide structure, many athletes develop time management skills early on. For example, in practice, athletes have set times to run drills, brush up on offensive or defensive skills, or work on set pieces that are scenario specific. Students absorb this and use the structure and time management skills developed in practice to manage their academic load. They learn to balance their classes with sports and social obligations with their own personal “practice plan”.
As a team member who is fully committed to the team and its members, athletes learn trust. They must trust that their teammates are working just as hard as they are and even hold them accountable if they aren’t. They also develop a sense of personal accountability knowing that everyone has a role and a task, and they must perform their own assignment for the team to be successful.
Playing a sport, even an individual sport, also helps athletes develop socially. Athletes learn to interact with others and they have the opportunity to meet people they might not otherwise have known. I’ve often said to athletes I’ve coached that they don’t have to be best friends, but if it has to do with the team, each teammate is priority one. We’ve had athletes here that join a team and end up finding their place at the school or even a surrogate family.
Athletes learn to handle adversity. It comes in the form of injuries or a particularly bad flu season that runs throughout the entire team. They learn to lose and win with respect for others and they learn to lose and win together. All of this teaches them to be flexible in a range of situations, including unplanned events that often occur. In addition, athletes learn that not everyone can play at the same time or on the same level. Even in the NFL there is a practice squad comprised of athletes more elite than most, whose full-time job is only to practice. Many of them not elite enough to ever see Sunday playing time.
Goal Setting is a byproduct of this resilience that serves competitors well throughout life. Whether the goal is to score in soccer or be captain of the team, the concept of setting goals helps students learn to think long term about what they want to accomplish. They also learn that to achieve these goals they will have to commit and work through both successes and failures. This requires patience and persistence. We see examples of this in both present Episcopal students and our Episcopal alums daily; from Oliver Jack working on his jump shot before most students get to school and Lili Pellegrin placing in the 100 breaststroke in State to Olympian Meghan O’Leary competing for a spot in the 2020 Olympics and Todd Graves’ Raising Cane’s successes. Four people Four paths. The core of their goals list, I bet very similar.
We want them to do their best, have fun and learn a few things along the way. The majority of us won’t go on to be a Vince Lombardi, a Tom Brady or a Nick Foles; and that is okay. That said, sports can provide each one of us regular folks, no matter the path we choose, with the same skills those guys use to achieve their successes.
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Randy is in his second year as Athletic Director at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. Randy is from Baton Rouge and attended Catholic High School before moving to Ruston to earn a degree in education from Louisiana Tech University. Since joining Episcopal in 2002, Randy has served in many capacities including Dean of Students, the Physical Education Department Chair, teacher, and coach for a variety of boy’s and girl’s upper school athletic teams.