For some parents across the country, weekends are measured in soccer game start times, baseball innings and tournament scores. Researchers estimate that over 14 million children play one type of organized sport and several of those youngsters play multiple sports depending on the season. Sports are important for teaching good sportsmanship, goal-setting, teamwork, and for encouraging children to have an active lifestyle. Aside from these obvious advantages, organized sports can also play a much larger and culturally significant role as well.
Sports combine athletic as well as social skills and mix them up into an organized framework. Children are often required to put aside their own desires and ego for the sake of their team. They spend time learning from and befriending teammates who often are more like brothers and sisters than mere friends. Team uniforms are worn to signify solidarity and equality; everyone’s uniform looks the same. Children learn to play, strategize and communicate with people from all walks of life; those of different religions, race, ethnicity, gender and culture and work toward a common goal – winning. They are often exposed at an early age to those that are different from themselves but possess equal or greater skills and they come to realize that everyone is different, but differences can be strengths as well. Consider the following sports when looking for a diverse team activity for your child:
Baseball – – Baseball not only requires good communication from all team members; pitcher and catcher, outfielder to infielder and between the out and in-fielders themselves, it also encourages children to assist struggling teammates who are not performing well. By succeeding individually, children help contribute to a winning team environment and each child knows that even though he or she may not have their best game that day, one of their teammates will pick up the slack.
Major League Baseball also has many international stars and role-models that children of different ethnicities and nationalities can look up to and admire. There are players from Japan, Korea, Canada, the us, Australia, Mexico, Cuba and several other countries around the globe. MLB has training centers in a number of Central and South American countries and are constantly providing instruction and education for their players. The teams play exhibition games overseas and have created a world Baseball Classic which features international teams competing against each other for the title.
Basketball – – Basketball requires communication as well. While on the court, players make each other aware of their positions as well as the position of the defenders. It also encourages and rewards players for unselfish play in passing the ball to others to score. It necessitates an understanding between all players and the coach when plays are created in practice or called out during the game. Basketball is a game of camaraderie and the more time a team spends together practicing, the better they know where teammates will be during any given play in the game.
Recently, the National Basketball Association has seen an influx of international players as well. There are players from all different walks of life and several different age groups, as the NBA allows high school players to participate. Basketball is a very popular international Olympic sport and thousands of fans from every different country come out to support their team during the trials and 2 week events.
Football – – In football, we truly see the uniform disguising all differences. Th안전놀이터e helmets children wear to protect themselves also offers a mask to hide skin color, gender differences and cultural distinctions as well. Everyone looks the same on the football field; there is no one better than another; the great equalizer. This helps children to be judged more on their ability to play, rather than what they look like or where they come from. Football, like Baseball and Basketball requires communication skills between teammates as well as a desire to unselfishly sacrifice oneself for another teammate.
Other Sports Programs – – There are a number of other special sports programs in communities across the country that focus on helping children with disabilities participate and establish relationships. Special baseball fields, basketball courts and tennis facilities allow children in wheelchairs, walkers and on crutches to play sports alongside of their peers. Mixed leagues provide children without physical disabilities the chance to participate and learn about children that are different from themselves.
Although many people may consider sports divisive and ego-driven with all players performing for themselves, parents can use sports as an opportunity to teach children about the satisfaction that comes from being part of a team. Children can learn life lessons as they play; leadership, teamwork, social skills and they can also learn that people that look, speak or play differently from themselves are people that they want to get to know and become friends with. Children are open to learning about others and accepting those who are different. We as parents need to be conscious of what we are teaching and the opportunities that we provide to them for doing just that.