Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Teaching Kids Values Through Sports

I began a recent writing campaign to once again suggest to my school contacts that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. Sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.
It seems to me that almost everything that's important for us to pass down to our kids cannot be accomplished strictly by lectures or what I would call a frontal assault on kids brains. From our ideas on character to our desire to see our kids learn the benefits of hard work, from our faith to our valuing a good sense of humor, most everything we deem important cannot be passed on to another generation by simply touting it.
You hear a lot about learning through the use of games today in school--like this is something new because much of it will be done on computers. Good teachers have known from the earliest days of education that you have to work some fun, some culture, some real life experiences into those lesson plans. In the new testament, Jesus told parables to get His lessons across. The Old Testament is full of songs, stories and poetry for the same reason. Even the most profound and valid ideas the world has known need interesting stories or experiences to get them across.
Rather than conflict with studies and other pursuits, we believe sports can help motivate kids and be used to teach principles that will be helpful in all walks of life. Sports lessons can be life lessons. But it's going to take some effort. From the PE instructor to the coach, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to connect the dots for kids. For example, if kids are not taught the connection between teamwork on the field and teamwork off the field, they may miss it altogether. If players are taught to look out for their teammate in the game, but someone is not there to enforce the same principle to help kids look out for others who are being bullied, a great opportunity is missed. If an student learns not to deride a fellow player who makes a mistake, that same student ought to be told that the same principle holds true in the classroom.
At Sporting Chance Press we are doing our bit to help connect these lessons through our books, but a coach, a teacher, an aide, and a parent can make a greater contribution. Competition is a key ingredient in sports and it is one of those things that will be with us until the end of time in life as well. Most people in sports and physical education believe that without competition, sports lose much of their attraction and power with kids. But schools need to build in other goals for their sports and PE programs--and be serious about those goals. A ten minute pep talk on fighting bullying is going to help...a little. But the values we want our kids to embrace need to be emphasized and acknowledged by those who run the programs repeatedly, just like drills that are used for skill building. But the one thing we all should never forget is that in sports lessons can be fun and engaging. In soccer for example, there are drills that show how three players who are working as a team can pass the ball back and forth to frustrate a two-man defense. A coach might simply ask the kids at the end of a practice if they can see how this kind of teamwork may help in other areas of life to get kids thinking about the power of helping each other out. It can be that simple, but repetition is key. Values must be built into all programs and never let go.
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. Image at top of post is from Library of Congress: School kids in Maine.