Teaching Our Kids Through Sports

The past few weekends Ezekiel has had soccer tournaments {and another this weekend}. 
He l.i.v.e.s soccer. If we let him, his entire existence would revolve around it.

I didn't grow up in a sport-playing family so all this is completely new to me. I'm learning a lot.

Ben and I laugh that we're like a pair of high school kids and talk about EVERYTHING. Therefore, we've had {lots of} really good conversations about sports and competition, knowing that having 4 kids, we likely have years and years of games. tournaments. recitals. plays. etc.

One thing that I love is we intentionally make it a family affair. We are a package deal. 

We certainly cheer on our team...but I'll be honest, there's a lot of goofiness that goes on during the games.
{this picture will haunt Laith forever}

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Until becoming a parent, it never really occurred to me how much our kids learn through sports...

. Teachability . 

Humility and respect for authority is an essential part of life that we must teach our kids. When Ezekiel's coach makes a decision he doesn't agree with or a referee makes a bad call, he is learning to deal with the frustration in a positive way. 

Learning this on the soccer field will translate into respect for other authority figures such as Ben & I, his teachers, police officers, and someday even his boss. 

. Respect . 

There is so much "trash-talking" in sports these days - sadly even in kids games. 

When the pressure is on, our kids may be tempted to put another player down or maybe say something cocky about themselves. It's vital that we teach our kids to show good sportsmanship even during the most intense parts of the game.

As a family, we need to redefine what "winning" means. 
If they win a game but are disrespectful to other players, that is not winning. 

. Positive Attitude . 

The attitudes of my children {and yours} will determine how far they can go in life.  
Similarly, a coach knows one player can bring down the entire team. 

We need to remember to praise our kids for a positive attitude and challenge them with the idea that one optimistic person can set the tone for the entire team. 

Ezekiel usually plays forward {and rocks at it, by the way}. He's on a new summer league team however, and the coach played him in a different position. I'm so proud of him for taking it in stride. 
He was disappointed, to be sure {he of course loves to score!} but he continued to encourage his teammates as they won as a team.

{ok stop. side note: see Ben over there by the outhouse? One of our children was in there for over 30 mins. Mhm, yep. Ben got to watch from the stinkiest part of the field. hah. love it.}

. Perseverance. 

In life and on the field, we all need to learn how to deal with disappointment.  

Whether our children are trying to get into college, a job, or competing for 1st place in a tournament, we need to be mindful that we teach them how to deal with failure in a positive way.

This is something that I still struggle with today. If I don't catch onto something right away, it gets too hard, or I constantly fail at something...I quit. This is something that I'm very open with our kids about and I'm being very intentional about working on.  We've had a lot of really good conversations about it and am hoping that Ben & I are able to teach our children that perseverance learned under pressure especially, will help prepare them to succeed both in sports and so many other areas of life.

. Integrity. 

Modeling is the key to teaching our kids integrity. No matter what I say, it's my actions that they will actually remember. Our integrity is reflected in the way we cheer at their games and the way we talk about the team and game afterward. 

We need to be asking them questions about whether or not they would stretch the rules in order to win, or perhaps whether or not they would give back a victory in order to do the right thing.

I read that Martin Luther King Jr. used to talk about an "11th Commandment" that prevails in America:
"Thou shalt not get caught." 

We must call our children to honesty & integrity. What a perfect opportunity to learn within the realm of sports....it'll be something that their spouse, friends, and employers will thank you for later.

And yes, excited to say his team won the entire tournament. 
{crazy to think a year ago he was playing street ball on a dirt road in Ethiopia}

I  love that he's found something he's passionate about.

{take joy}