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  • Writer's pictureMindy McCarthy

The Power of Sports

There seem to be so many things in our society today dividing us, even those of us who live in the United States of America. In my optimistic mind, I am looking for things that can possibly bring us together.

My mind automatically goes to sports.

Sports have a way of bringing together people from all different backgrounds and life experiences. These can include the players coming together to work towards a common goal and even the fans that pull for these teams come together to root for victories.

While there are many reasons to debate the process and ways to bring sports back to our society, there is no doubt that sports can be something that brings us together. While that should not be the only reason to bring sports back, if we do get the pleasure of viewing sports again that should be something we focus on.

In addition to bringing people together, sports can teach us so much more about how to endure life’s ups and downs. This is why I completed a lot of research in graduate school about the life skills that you can learn from playing sports. I think during these uncertain times it would be beneficial to revisit some of these life skills.

1. Goal Setting:

When you set out to accomplish something, you are setting that goal for yourself or your team. Establishing that goal and writing it down can be helpful to get the ball rolling in working towards that achievement. It sets your intention to work towards something that you desire. In addition to setting goals, sports allow you to develop steps towards reaching that goal. For example, if you are training for a marathon, it helps to break down the long goal of running 26.2 miles to smaller goals in progressive intervals that build up to that kind of mileage. Breaking your overall goal down into smaller steps helps it not feel so overwhelming and helps you continue to stay motivated as you climb up those stairs to your achievement. You can do that with anything in your life like starting a new business, creating a new healthy habit, losing weight, and the list can go on and on.

2. Overcoming Adversity:

Sometimes we hear the word adversity, and we think it has to be something “major” like being homeless, fighting against racism, dropping out of school, or something along those lines. While those are certainly major obstacles, each of have our own version of obstacles to face. When you are playing a sport, mistakes happen throughout the game. Do you ever see athletes just quit the game and leave? Let’s say you are watching a football game and the quarterback throws an interception. Do you see him just walk off the field and give up? No! The quarterback comes back on the next possession to try to do better than his last. He overcomes that obstacles and tries to fight against the adversity the defense is trying to impose on him. Overcoming these obstacles and adversity can translate well to your life to help you stay motivated to keep going even when there are bumps in the road on the way to your goals.

3. Seeking Help from Others

When you first start trying something new, it is beneficial to ask for help from other people who have excelled at what you are aiming to do. At the beginning of a sporting career, you become more like a student trying to soak in all the information that you can get from your coach to help you become a better player. When thinking about life, it helps you understand that finding people that can help you during good times and bad is beneficial because everyone needs their own support system. Just like teams rely on one another to achieve a common goal, life calls for making our own teams to overcome obstacles and become well educated in how we can accomplish our goals. During these times, who are some people you can use as a resource to learn more about what is going on in our society and how we can affect change? Think about those people that you want to use as a resource, and then form your own opinion or develop your own strengths to help others.

4. Managing Emotions

We have all seen it in a sporting event. A player or coach gets really upset leading them to take some actions that result in penalties. Part of sports, though, is teaching ourselves how to manage our emotions, so those penalties do not come. When something happens in a game, you can either react to it and make it worse or find ways to keep moving forward. This teaches you how to manage your emotions even in other aspects of your life like your relationships with your parents, your behavior in school or at a job, etc.

5. Appreciating Differences

This is probably the best lesson that our world can take a look at right now. When you join a team, you learn how to appreciate the differences that each of you bring to the group. Everyone had a different path to get to this point, and they all have their own individual strengths to contribute. As a team, you use these strengths to come together to achieve a common goal. We can certainly do this in life. When working with others or talking with one another, we can think about how each of us have had different paths to come together to this point. We all have had different life experiences that have led us to our current viewpoints. That allows us to come together and work with different strengths and experiences. Rather than shutting someone down for their viewpoint, these differences can be explained and shared with one another based on the experiences. In sports, we appreciate the differences between players on the same team. For example, basketball teams appreciate that there is someone who excels at handling the ball and can dish the ball to their teammate who excels at making shots from anywhere on the court. Without those strengths working together, the team would not be as successful as they could be.

How can we translate this to our real world right now? How can we appreciate all of our differences to come together towards a common goal? How can we use this to create unity in our nation named after the notion that we are united?

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