Sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. By its very nature, sport is about participation. It is about inclusion and citizenship. It stands for human values such as respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork and fairness, all of which are principles which are also contained in the Charter of the United Nations.
We know that children need models. And if we do not give them good role models, they will choose whatever is available to them. In general, sportsmen and women can make great role models. They embody traits such as hard work and perseverance, have a healthy and active lifestyle, and can teach children about working together as a team. The best athletes can also teach children about being graceful in both victory and defeat, characteristics which can be carried over to other areas in life.
Sport has a universal language of its own, one that can cross language and cultural barriers, uniting children in a common cause. Without words, a team knows that they have a shared goal, and that they need to work together in order to achieve it. Can anyone forget the 1995 Rugby World Cup, that united a newly minted country under one banner and behind one team? Certainly cultural, language and class barriers were shattered on that day, and the Springboks became the symbol for a united South Africa. In fact, since ancient times, sport has been used as a way of building a sense of unity, and of uniting people in times of hardship. Sport was also considered a useful way of training an army for battle, and honing relevant skills in a social context.
By supporting or playing a team sport, your children are able to participate in something greater than themselves. Participating in sport can promote general health and well-being, and research shows that it boosts self-image and confidence, which can be especially important for older children and teens. (Read more here at Psych Central) Team players learn that individual differences can be put aside in order to achieve a mutually agreed-on goal. These are principles that will guide them into adulthood.
Enjoy your school and team sports with your children and family, and teach them the joy of active participation and physical and mental health.
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