Youth team sports can fill the gaps for learning life skills and reinforce what’s being taught at home.
Sports are a huge part of the multi-faceted culture of Mississippians. Drive through a neighborhood and you’ll see a number of college football flags. If you’re at a coffee shop, you’re more than likely going to overhear someone say, “Hail State,” or, “You catch the Rebs this weekend?” or a proud parent will be boasting about how well their kid performed at their latest tryouts.
While death and life are in the power of the tongue, how hard your Sunday School teacher picks on you Sunday morning depends entirely on how your team played on Saturday. Playful jesting abounds year-round when it comes to the sports culture in Mississippi.
And while the focus is often on winning (or at the very least, playing well), team sports, when started young, provide a fun way to learn some of the most valuable skills that will carry a child through their life.
“You learn to be a team player and you’re better because of it,” said Jason Cook, Head of School and football coach at Park Place Baptist Church. “You learn biblical and real-world skills.”
Teamwork, leadership, respect for authority, sportsmanship – all of these are skills that if taught young, lay the foundation for success well into adulthood.
“There’s this generation of kids who don’t have a consistent authority figure,” said Cook. “Being part of team sports builds respect and sets expectations for how you’ll have to deal with people in the future.”
Team sports holds the athletes accountable for their actions and their decision-making in a real-time, competitive, yet fun environment.
“You learn to deal with adversity among the players, you’re held accountable, and you represent something bigger than just yourself,” said Cook. “For us at Park Place, you’re representing the school and you’re representing Christ.”
Cook added that learning to be a team player, learning to be accountable, and other life skills involved in sports can make you better at everything else you do.
“It’s a lot more than just going out on an athletic field and performing,” said Cook. “For example, I’m a better husband because in being involved in team sports, I’ve learned how to deal with adversity, I’ve learned patience, accountability, and I’ve learned the ability to stick with it.”
Life is hard, and not just for adults. It seems with every generation that the troubles children face are getting even darker, but at least in team sports, you have a whole team for backup and for guidance.
“You draw from your experiences with your team when you experience things in life,” said Cook. “I’ve learned physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual toughness through sports.”
Of course, the desire to win should be a driving force in any athlete, and coaches desire athletes who want to win.
“This country was founded on competition, on winning, and giving it all you’ve got,” said Cook. “But we need kids these days with competitive spirits that also understand that win, lose, or draw, you’ve given it your all and your best each and every time, without bending and breaking the rules.”
And again, this competitive spirit is a biblical stance.
“Paul said, ‘we train to run the race,’” said Cook. “We as Christians are all running our own race, and we’ll get that prize if we know the Lord and we are faithful. That’s something that should be instilled in young people through sports.”
The coach added that in a lot of ways, team sports can fill the gaps for learning life skills that may not be learned at school or at home, for various reasons.
“We do live in a fast-paced world,” said Cook. “You’ve got parents working to the bone just to make ends meet. It’s important to take stock and see if there are areas in your life that can be adjusted to further prioritize that family time.”
Cook acknowledged that especially nowadays, parents do not have an easy task at hand. Children have to be provided for, cared for, grounded, well-rounded— and you have to insure all these things while also keeping a roof over their heads.
“It does require time away from your kids, but we also see parents making sacrifices or rotating which parents attend things with the kids in order to still have that valuable time with them,” said Cook.”
The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is perhaps more relevant now with today’s generation but team sports help with that.
“There are parents whose schedules change constantly and they’re running the rat race,” said Cook. “When a child is involved in team sports, we are able to help these parents instill these values even when they can’t be there directly with their kids.”
Coaches are not intended to be proxy parents; however, they are other figures in life that helps mold a child into a well-rounded, healthy, successful adult.
“Family can’t be replaced,” said Cook. “We partner with parents to provide learning opportunities for these life skills for their kids, and it’s my heart’s desire that parents are encouraged by that. We want to be supporting parents in raising their kids.”
Cook said that coaches aren’t by any means raising kids, but through team sports, they are able to reaffirm what kids are hopefully learning at home.
“And if these skills aren’t being taught at home, they’ll learn them through team sports,” said Cook. “I had good, godly men as coaches in my life that worked hard and poured into me, and I still think about those lessons and what they taught me today.”