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Whitehead: Learning life lessons from football

The ability to play sports creates life lessons that, if recognized, can generate a prosperous life off the field. This prosperity is not only reflected in the career choices after sports but also within the relationships at home with the family. The skills developed from childhood when being involved in these extracurricular activities transition into necessary characteristics that aid in living a constructive life at home and at work. There is a correlation between what is required to be a great athlete and what is required to be a great husband, father and co-worker. Although some don’t utilize the skills that they have learned for purposes outside of the sport, it doesn’t mean that those skills don’t exist. Using them in life situations can provide for a positive, impactful future. Hopefully, that helps eliminate the negative stigma that is associated with so many athletes after their professional careers are over.

Professional sports require so much more than just physical talent. A primary goal is to build character in these individuals. One person won’t be successful in life based solely off of their physical ability to play a sport. Success requires good work ethic, discipline and commitment. This is taught at a young age when kids get involved in playing sports. People often don’t recognize what engaging in these activities truly entails.  Naturally, you learn to perfect your craft in the physical aspect, but what about the life skills that are learned that relate to the future? This is sometimes overlooked. One’s discipline and time management skills won’t sell tickets nor generate billions of dollars in the sporting industry. But when physical ability expires, which is inevitable, all that is left is the life skills that were taught, and those skills when used properly will allow an individual to remain successful when athletic talent is no longer an option.

For plenty of children growing up, playing a sport was a means of staying out of trouble. The extracurricular activity occupied them; limiting the idle time, which is typically when problems develop for youth. Sports gives them an opportunity to be a part of a team, which in turn sets them up for a number of skills that would be beneficial for their future. Being a part of a team develops character, and that character can be used influentially in everyday life outside the wonderful world of sports.

The feeling of being a winner is extremely euphoric. To accomplish a goal and be rewarded for it creates a residual strive to be triumphant. There is a high, if you will, that instills a sense of hope and belief in yourself and your team. Winning gives that taste of success, which ultimately turns into a craving for it. Going through life with a strong desire to be successful usually results in BEING SUCCESSFUL Since most sports require a team effort, individuals learn to make selfless commitments by sacrificing themselves for the good of the whole. Team effort facilitates working well with others and increases socialization skills. The world is filled with various demographics and it’s imperative to have the ability to adapt to a variety of different personalities and conversations. When playing on a team, there is exposure to a very diverse group of people. The commonality is the effort and support for one another to achieve the same goals. People are held accountable for their individual effort. That accountability sets a higher standard for all involved, instilling hard work and loyalty among teammates. Being capable of contributing to a team and being an active part to achieve a victory only increases the drive for success not just individually, but also as a whole.

With every win, however, there will eventually be a loss, too. Losing isn’t always a negative. Of course, no one aspires to be a loser, but being faced with a loss sometimes helps a person develop coping mechanisms that are helpful in dealing with failure. To some, failing can cause extreme detriment, but in professional sports you may be faced with losses and disappointments daily. This can only prepare you for the preordained events in the future that too may be a letdown. Playing sports help you to build the strength to carry on to fight another day. That mentality is vital in a world filled with rejection. This cutthroat industry can make or break you, but that tough skin that is created through the competitive nature of sports can be applied to life off the field, giving strength, will and courage to continue the fight for your dreams no matter what interferences are encountered.

Discipline is another one of the many important skills that are taught. Discipline relates to various different factors, one being time management. Time management is beneficial when striving to be productive. It requires focusing on the task at hand and provides the ability to plan accordingly, increasing efficiency in multiple assignments. Discipline also forces individuals to acknowledge and respect authority. This compels them to follow certain guidelines and methods of conduct, which is so significant in everyday life. When disciplined you learn to follow through with commitments and you recognize that there are consequences for unacceptable behavior. For example: Being late to practice can result in substantial fines or loss of position. Those consequences can be detrimental. Having to face them may instill a stronger desire to not allow that or similar situations to happen again.

There are a number of skills that are taught when playing sports. Organization, socialization, time management, teamwork, hard work, loyalty, sacrifice, contribution, commitment and character development are some of those, just to name a few. Every individual that plays a sport is taught these things, but what’s important is recognizing and using these skills in daily living. Take notice of how some of these skills can positively affect life at home. Time management is very important when raising children. Managing their daily activities and schedules while still allocating the appropriate time for a spouse requires skill. Commitment is essential to having a flourishing marriage. Spending quality time and performing acts of service takes commitment and, according to Gary Chapman, author of the book, “The 5 Love Languages”, will result in a “full love tank” for your spouse. The old saying “happy wife, happy life” might very well be true, but it takes instilling good values and morals within yourself to first make yourself happy, thus leading to the ability to make others happy. Exhibiting discipline within the home is a great example to set for children. That can contribute to them being positive influences in society. Also, displaying the ability to cope with loss and failure demonstrates strength, which is necessary for the sake of the family as being the head of the household.

As you can see, playing sports speaks far higher volumes than the physical talent and skill associated with it; what is fulfilling isn’t the records that have been broken, that’s the bonus, it’s the advantage these individuals have of being crafted with life skills that can’t be taught in a classroom, and unfortunately aren’t always taught at home. It’s an involvement in an activity that focuses on teaching important life lessons making you a positive, contributing individual to society and to your family, on and off the field.

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