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Six ways team sports will prepare your kid for the real world

As a parent, you may feel a bit stressed about the scheduling, expense and general busyness added to your daily routine when your child participates in team sports. But your busy schedule right now can help set your child up for a bright future when he or she enters the work force.

I grew up playing three high school varsity sports—soccer, hockey and lacrosse—followed by four years of lacrosse in college. In my younger years, I learned many skills and life lessons from participating in team sports that benefit me now as an adult. As the program coordinator for wheelchair sports at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, I share those lessons and skills with other young athletes. 

Team work
As the name implies, learning to work with others on a team is a key skill in sports and the real world. Each member of a team plays a key role, whether they are the leading scorer or a bench warmer. You learn to appreciate other's efforts and receive appreciation back. Through my participation in team sports, I learned what it means to belong and feel like an important part of something bigger than myself. I also learned to trust and count on my teammates to have my back on and off the field or ice.

Healthy competition
Unfortunately I can't guarantee that your child will think every call by the referee is fair, they'll be the lead point scorer in the game or that their team will win every game. Yet they can learn to persevere in the face of disappointment. They will learn that while they can't always control the outcome, they should give their best effort. Players also learn humility, respect and good sportsmanship as they deal with the ups and downs of winning and losing.

Improved social skills
In today's technology driven culture, it can be difficult for parents to get their children to interact with others face-to-face. With team sports, kids spend time developing relationships with their teammates and coach. Teammates must learn to adapt to and accept each other so they can work together as a team. Learning how to be a true friend and how to accept others are powerful tools that will take your child far past adulthood. I found that the bonds I made with teammates reached outside of practice. Some days I saw my teammates more than my family. In fact, my teammates became my extended family.

Self-confidence
Setting a new personal best, scoring a game-winning goal, overcoming setbacks such as an injury or a big loss are all learning experiences that can lead to greater self-confidence. In my case, sports helped me push myself to take risks. Some risks paid off and some didn't, but that allowed me to learn and grow. To play and compete in team sports allowed me a chance to gauge and grow my skills and reach for the next goal.

Responsibility
Being part of a team, you realize that one member's actions affect the entire team so you need to be responsible for your own actions (skipping practice, minimal effort and poor grades). I learned how important it was to maintain my GPA so I wouldn't let my team down by not being able to play. I was able to maintain a 3.5 GPA throughout high school and keep my commitment to my team. It also forces your child to organize his or her time to allow for homework, chores and practice.

Leadership development 
Playing sports provides participants with opportunities to develop skills in communications, team building, problem solving and quick decision making necessary to succeed in leadership roles of all types. Participants also learn to interact respectfully with all levels of authority from teammates, to coaches and referees, to the opposing team. 

I am a big champion for involving kids of all abilities in sports. It is truly amazing to watch a child as they learn to become part of a team, develop a sense of belonging and gain self-confidence—the experience for the child can be life-changing.

This is true for kids with disabilities too. I see myself in each one of the kids who participate on one of the Courage Kenny adaptive sports teams. It's wonderful to see kids become physically stronger, but it's just as gratifying to watch them mature through participation in team sports. 

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