Thursday, December 8, 2011

Benefits of Sports and "Extra" Curricular Activities

As a homeschooling parent, it has always been important to involve my kids in sports. That was their way of getting to know other kids in town. They have both been involved with swim team, basketball, football, cheerleading, softball/baseball, soccer, Taekwondo, bowling, dance, and gymnastics. They have also participated in art and choir with a homeschool group. My intent in having them participate in numerous activities would be to allow them a variety so that they could pick which one(s) they wanted to stick with. After about five years, my daughter has narrowed her focus to competitive dance, art, and learning guitar as well a singing. My son still enjoys all the activities, and plays sports year 'round at the Wichita YMCA.
Over the years, I have seen a definite benefit to having them try out different activities. First, they obviously are more active, using various muscle groups and learning various skills. This keeps them fit, while they enjoy spending time with kids their own ages. Second, they are mentally challenged learning the various rules of the sports they play. I find this very important since I did not have this opportunity as a child. I began competitive swimming very early on, and made time somehow for softball from the ages 10-18. But I do wish that I was able to learn different sports so that it would be easier to help my kids with them.
Finally, and this is my most important point, sports and activities allow a child to gain self esteem in natural ways. I have seen my kids grow immensely by trying new things. Even if they aren't the most athletic kids around, eventually they will gain new skills, and when they do, it really makes them feel good. They have learned that the more work they put into something, the more they will get out of it. They have learned not to fear new things, and not to be embarrassed if they don't get something the first time. They are more confident kids, and they know their strengths and weaknesses.
I felt led to write on this topic because I have seen kids who have not been involved in activities outside of what they do in school. There is such a vast difference in these kids, and it is really sad. It is almost as if their personalities have not been allowed to flourish and their self esteem is just waiting for something to bring it to existence. Often parents use money as an excuse. Especially in today's world, with so many divorces and dual-home families, finances are tight. I have found a way around this by taking advantage of programs at the YMCA, where children will NOT be turned away. You can apply for financial assistance, which is provided on an as-needed basis. Some things are outrageously expensive, such as my daughter's competitive dance at the YMCA. But sports, which are non-competitive, are affordable and enjoyable (most of the time...sometimes there are crazy parents that are out for blood). Money should never be a reason to exclude your kids from trying different activities. If you imagine their futures, I believe you will see what a positive impact it will have on them, by providing things that you can't do effectively at home. To me, it is a worthwhile investment, even if it means that I will have to go without things myself. I still remember to this day some of the amazing catches I made in games, and the goals I reached in races and the praise I received from coaches and parents. It is one thing when our parents tell us how great we are, it is TOTALLY another to get that praise or encouragement from outside the family. Let your kids be praised; let them be encouraged, and let them spread their wings, while you watch and enjoy. Sit back, and let them thank you. Because they will!

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