by Wendy Taylor
Extracurricular activities are known to increase academic performance. In addition to the obvious health benefits that physical activities provide, participation in athletic programs can also instill life-long lessons and important skills that cannot readily be taught in the classroom. Children and teens who participate in athletic programs, whether school-based or not, are encouraged to confront challenges while developing these crucial abilities. Whether students participate in activities involving a team, or as individuals, they garner certain skills that can help to better prepare them for college and careers.
A certain level of focus is necessary when participating in sporting events, no matter the activity. Specifically, think about those heart-pounding, pulse-pumping, do-or-die moments on the court or field—these are the times when laser focus is developed.
- Basketball players will need to block out the noise of the fans in order to make a game-winning foul shot.
- Golfers need to focus on the speed of their swing and assess the curves of the green to sink a putt.
- Swimmers need to be hyper-focused on the sound of the starting gun to leave the block with rapid speed.
- Soccer players will need to take shots on the goal without a moment’s hesitation.
There are countless more examples of instances in sports where participants will need to rely on their ability to focus. The point is that, when developing this skill, athletes learn to ignore distractions, eliminate doubt, make necessary adjustments, and employ quick thinking to react on a dime. These skills translate into adulthood as well. Whether attending a post-secondary college or university, or going straight into the workforce, the ability to focus on a project or task, no matter the environment, is an invaluable skill.
For instance, for any type of first-responder—firefighters, EMTs, police officers, etc.—the ability to block out one’s chaotic surroundings and focus on the primary goal of safety is crucial. A career in the corporate world, while less dire, will also involve quick thinking, problem-solving skills, and sound decision-making based on information/data. Again, this level of mental stamina and focus can be cultivated through competitive sports.
Across the board, teamwork is a buzzword that appears in nearly every job posting, no matter the level of education required or salary suggested for the position. Therefore, formal schooling is not the only place where team-building and cooperative skills can be acquired.
Competitive sports allow children to recognize the importance of everyone’s contribution towards the goal. Participants may not be the highest scorer on the team, but their efforts and contributions create circumstances in which their teammate or teammates will be able to score, ensuring victory for the team. A competitor may not receive the glory of the recognition that comes with the winning 3-pointer, touchdown, goal, or 1st place medal, but this is no way negates his or her input. Similarly, the workplace is going to demand high levels of teamwork—it’ll be up to each individual on the team to put in his/her best efforts in order for the whole company, or group, or team, or business to achieve success. Just like with the MVP of the game—we can’t all be the CEO of the company, but we can do everything in our power to contribute to the team’s efforts.
Grit is often a determining factor between success and failure—this is true on the court or field, as well as in institutes of higher learning and in the workplace. Simply put, grit is the innate desire to persevere and achieve, despite any previous failures or challenging obstacles in the way. In sports, we often hear the phrase, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” This level of competitiveness and grit is certainly nurtured through experiences with competitive sports and other athletic activities. Likewise, perseverance through trial and error in school and in a future career will be critical to lifelong achievement.