How Do Sports Develop Life Skills?

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Any spectator of team sports who witnesses bad fan behavior, from people yelling or even spitting at the coaches to unruly mob action, might wonder whether sports can develop life skills. Missy Foote, head coach of women's lacrosse at Middlebury College in Vermont, teaches that sports are "a metaphor for life," according to the Middlebury College website. Although some spectators get out of line, playing sports develops important life skills in several ways.

Teaches Commitment and Teamwork

  • When you join a team, teammates and coaches depend on you to be there for practices and games until the season ends. If you don't feel like showing up for a game or practice session or if you want to quit mid-season, you affect the entire team. As the saying goes, "There's no 'I' in team." Additionally, you learn to work as a team member, finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are in relation to the abilities of the other members of the team. The experience of working with other players transfers to working with co-workers and to maintaining personal relationships, says Kristi Dosh, author of "Saturday Millionaires: How Winning Football Builds Winning Colleges," on her website, It's a Swing and a Miss.

Builds Character

  • Playing sports teaches you how to be a gracious winner and a polite loser. The tradition of shaking hands while making eye contact with your opponent and saying, "good game," is not just for show. This ritual exists to teach sportsmanship, a skill that serves athletes later in life when they need to deal with people they don't necessarily like. When you play sports, you must play by the rules and be respectful of others, which is an invaluable life skill that makes it possible to live in a civilized society.

Develops Confidence

  • Mastering a skill and getting in physical shape build confidence. Competing in games helps raise the confidence level even further. Winning gives athletes an obvious confidence boost, but even losing offers a valuable life skill; it teaches athletes resilience and to focus on what they can do better next time. The BBC reported that 80 percent of senior women business leaders surveyed competed in sports growing up, according to Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls Day School Trust in London, England.

Helps Set Goals

  • The Olympic.org website says that all athletes set goals, whether they realize they are doing so or not. Athletes work on skills until they reach what they consider a successful outcome. They understand what is attainable and achievable so that they don't fail and lose confidence, but they also challenge themselves to be the best they can be. This type of goal setting for success in sports transfers to goal setting for success in whatever endeavor a person chooses in life.

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