In the ‘olden days’ we would roam the neighbourhood streets after school hanging out with friends, splashing around in above ground pools, roller-skating on bumpy footpaths or climbing trees, and my Mum would be hollering out the door for us to ‘come inside’.
But it’s a little different today. We are not terribly comfortable with allowing our kids to roam the streets on their bikes or even kick the footy unsupervised at the local park unless they are well into their teens. So unless you have a sizeable yard, or a pool, what activity will entice the children to go outside?
Enter team sports. Whether a club or school-based sport, being involved with a team gives our children an interesting place to go; something interesting and physical to do; and a commitment they must meet.
Building commitment and loyalty
Insisting on your child’s commitment to a team sport can be a great opportunity for parents to model how important committing to a team is, and that it is unacceptable to let that team down. Parents can help do that by ensuring they themselves can successfully facilitate that commitment.
Loyalty to a team is everywhere – whether it be a family group or a work place team (or the entire organisation for which you work) and it is an important trait to have in your value set as you move through life. Committing to a sporting team is a great way to learn this.
Of course, you are not going to necessarily like everyone on your sporting team – just as you may not necessarily like everyone in your family group or organisation – but you can learn to respect them as individuals and find ways to coexist with them for the time you are together. Often it can be those we think we won’t get along with initially – that once the effort is made to move beyond the superficial differences and we learn to appreciate them – are the very people with whom we forge the strongest bonds. This can all be practiced and these personal skills developed when we are involved in team sports.
There is no ‘I’ in team.
Team sports is also about learning to consider people other than yourself – being a part of something bigger.
In 2016 St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School had an historic sixth straight win for its First Eight in the rowing competition called Head of the River. St Margaret’s Head of Rowing Jarad Bidwell said the strength of the St Margaret’s shed and its historic record lay in the entire St Margarets’ community – with students, coaches, parents, supports and the rowers all rallying behind each other.
What this approach also demonstrates is that respect is a big part of team sports as well – and it can teach this value very well. Players learn to respect one another, their coaches, the referees, and the opposition. Again, it’s vitally important that parents also model this value to their children when they are involved.
Families bond with team sports
Team sports encourage family involvement – those days on the sidelines bonding with their children and other parents can be the most cherished of times – and very often the most missed when children leave school and organised sport. There are very teachable moments in the car ride home as well – whether win, lose or draw – your conversation has the capacity for you to teach your children about winning and losing well, and putting either result into perspective.
As parents, we can worry that our children do too much, and are too busy and ‘stressed out’. However, being involved in team sports teaches time management and discipline; time is used more effectively and this can spill over into the academic domain as well. And while the path from school sport may lead to Olympic glory – you don’t have to be an elite athlete to reap the many rewards of being involved in team sport, and parents are key to sowing the positive seeds of this team involvement.
Wendy Johnston – Director of Marketing and Communication at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School.
St Margaret’s offers 18 team sports with 92 per cent of girls participating in two or more of these throughout the year. It also had four Old Girls compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
This article was published in Issue 20 of our print magazine, February/March 2017.