Posted by Len Ramirez, Total Teen Dad | Posted in Total Teen Dad | Posted on 24-09-2010
I’ve realized a couple of benefits from the kids being in sports that I never hear anybody talk about. I realized the first benefits when I was watching my son wrestle in junior high school. He used to talk to me about how he felt awkward at times in class; that sometimes he felt lost like he couldn’t keep up and that, in turn, made him feel different than the other kids.
When he joined wrestling, however, things changed. He learned discipline because he had to keep his grades up in order to participate with the team. Being on a team creates an environment of camaraderie, a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood (yes, there are female wrestlers now), and he didn’t want to lose that.
My son’s self esteem rose along with this camaraderie. He was part of an effort where others relied on him to do his job so they could win as the sum of a team effort. He seemed more at ease with himself, and when he got on the mat, he was more prepared as time went by.
As a wrestler myself when I was in high school, I was excited to see him compete. As soon as he got his first win, he realized how powerful he was and, in turn, so did I. This is when I first realized he was growing up. He was throwing 160 pound opponents around like dolls. This also explained why my neck hurt when he used to hug me goodnight when he was three years old! I felt pride when he got a point taken away because he virtually body slammed an opponent (not knowing this was against the rules). Blame it on the WWE. My son was growing up before my eyes.
Now, my youngest daughter plays field hockey in high school. She’s in her third year and a real leader on the field. She coaches the rookies on the team while the game is in play, backs up her teammates when mistakes are made, and never gives up when she lets the opponent move past her.
When a game is over and her team has won, the girls get together in a big circle and turn on the music. They chose Shakira’s Waka Waka song (the song she was asked to write for World Cup Soccer this past year) as their celebration dance. My daughter doesn’t like to dance publicly, but being part of a team makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do under normal circumstances. The adrenalin is rushing and there she was, dancing with her teammates and coach on an open field with people all around watching them. And she was enjoying it. She may not have been the most enthusiastic of all the team members, but she was feeling free and liberated.
My daughter was growing up. I realized she’s a leader when she wants to be, has to be. She has the ability to let go of her fears when she feels she can and when the environment is safe. And her smile is just as big as it was when she was three years old.
Sports has all kinds of benefits for teens. I would be amiss to not point out that camaraderie has a downside as well, like everything else. There is pressure to recognize each other wherever you are and to participate together in functions outside of the sport, like parties where alcohol and drugs are involved. A characteristic of high school, not just camaraderie created by sports. It’s a strong thing because it fills the need every student wants desperately to fill – the need to belong and fit in.
Watching the kids develop through sports gave me confidence that they were learning important life lessons they would be able to use when they were out on their own. Life experiences they could draw from. A realization that there were lessons out there that could be taught to them by others – other than their parents. And that’s a good realization!