Picture this: Your 6-year-old is taking the final round in his quarterly skating competition when he falls down. His upper lip is cut. He’s bleeding while he takes sips of water. You ask him to give up.
You say that he’s done his best and you’re happy. He looks at you for a second and then says, “Mom, it’s just the last round. We will go home after this.” Before you can react, he joins his team and continues skating.
What do you think happened? Did your child just take a decision? Sports enhance the physical and mental command of the body. Therefore, they help in decision making.
Here are 6 ways sports make your children better decision-makers:
1) To be or not to be
“While playing or skating, he becomes the master of his universe. He’s able to surpass his weaknesses—ignores hunger, defeat, and even pain. He always comes out stronger. He’s able to decide for himself and becomes independent” says Lata while recounting the above incident at the skating rink with her 6-year-old.
Playing any sport requires a do-or-die attitude. That’s the reason many sportspersons make for keen business people—both have the ability to take risks.
“The mindset of the successful sportsperson is no different to the successful businessperson” Derek Redmond has been quoted saying. A record-breaking retired sprinter who now is a motivational speaker with his own business. His relay at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games fetched him a standing ovation from the crowd.
If sports can make such courageous decision makers, how about getting your child to try a sport?
Cricket is popular among Indians. Most of our family discussions are our expert comments on the sport- “Why did the captain make this player bat first?,” “That player suffered an injury but still played a fantastic match—good he decided to stay on and play!” “We should field first and bat later” and so on.
Effectively, it all boils down to what we believe is the right decision. Since it can change the fate of the match. If we make decisions even while we watch, imagine the kind of decisions involved for those actually playing the match?
Sounds tough doesn’t it? It is.
Decision making is part and parcel of sports. It’s a hard job—one that requires a lot of focus. This is a prime reason why children should be encouraged to play. Sports provide perspective. Children will be able to weigh the pros and cons as they play. They think on their feet and take important decisions.
When children participate in a sport, they come across hurdles, obstructions, and dilemmas. Charting a course for themselves, they decide how to overcome these struggles. Thus, they become better problem solvers.
This ability helps them in their academics and then eventually, in their careers.
Talking about careers, take Arnold Schwarzenegger, the famous ‘Terminator’ guy. He started off as a bodybuilder. An actor and model, he has tried his hands at various professions and been successful in all of them. The most recent feather in his cap is his famous political career as the Governor of California. But do you know he was originally elected in politics to serve the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports?
Sports can teach life skills—to decide a career and pave a path for oneself. Can we teach our children these skills otherwise? I believe not.
“She was behaving as if it was the last match she was going to play,” says Hema, talking about her 7-year-old who was adamant about playing badminton last Friday.
“She plays with her friends everyday! They take turns: the winner of one round plays with the winner of the next. Shruti was going to play against another winner that day. However, she had lots of homework to do. I was unyielding but then…” Hema pauses thoughtfully and then adds “Shruti took a decision!”
She decided to finish her homework ‘properly’ before going out to play.
Shruti’s work that evening was exceptional. She was careful about spellings, accurate in solving her sums, and doing an overall neat job. Her usual negligence for homework was replaced by speed and unexpected precision.
Why do you think that happened?
Shruti loves badminton and was not ready to compromise on her sport, but was willing to work hard to make time for it. She was willing to prioritise and focus.
This example shows how playing a sport makes awesome individuals of our children. They actually learn how to prioritise and schedule activities.
5) Taking turns
For those of you with toddlers, are you wondering how your kids will learn decision making through sports? Here’s the answer:
Play a sport every day—one that requires taking turns.
Basic cricket: one bowler and one batsman or football: one player and a goalkeeper are some of the best examples. You can also choose any other sport as long as it has scope for turns.
Once you’ve decided what to play, explain the game to your little ones. Let them decide who plays which role. Initially, they will choose randomly. Slowly, as they understand the sport better, they will decide their side based on their preference.
You will notice that they weigh the pros and cons of playing from a certain side and then decide. Such decisions are based on pure fondness. You will not need to coerce them or bribe them to take action.
Sports make them dynamic and decisive so it makes sense to catch them young. Children as young as two years of age can take decisions, provided, we give them the scope to.
“For the school debate teams, we identified problems relating to three major skills—endeavour, respect, and teamwork” says Usha, an English teacher from Ranchi.
“As a teacher, I provided opportunities to make decisions and take responsibility as much as possible. But it just wouldn’t work. Teams consisted of children who were not friends–so I gave them a lecture about respecting each other. They heard me out but seemed forced to comply,” she sighs.
This is when she decided to play. She met with the sports teacher and organised a basketball match for the debate teams. Her apprehension turned to thrill watching them play. They really gelled within their teams—making decisions and concocting plans to win the game.
“When we prepared for the debates after the game, I could sense that emotions had shifted. There was more respect and definitely more decisiveness amongst the teams,” she concedes.
Playing any team sport makes children decisive. However, it makes them compliant as well. It’s as if they understand their dual responsibilities–as individuals and as team players.
Don’t we all want responsible children? If you do, gear up and get your child playing a sport to make him/her a better decision maker.
Do you know of other ways how sports can improve your child’s decision making? Share them in the ‘Comments’ section below.
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