What Sport Can Teach Your Kids About Life

It was Aristotle who said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Sport has the power to be transformative in a child’s life. Psychologists Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa coined the term ‘psychological hardiness’. Their research affirmed that individuals, who have a strong sense of commitment to a task, saw that they had control over their environment and outcomes and saw any obstacles as a challenge were most likely to succeed.

One of the ‘hot topics’ in education at the moment is the concept of ‘growth mindsets’. The essential premise is that people with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just a starting point. It is worth watching Carol Dweck’s Ted talk on ‘The Power of Believing That You Can Improve’.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth has done extensive research on the factors that affect success in students. Duckworth’s conclusion is that those students that possess what she calls ‘grit’ are more likely to succeed and often perform to the highest standard. In Duckworth’s Ted talk, 'The Key to Success? Grit', Duckworth believes that those who display the five characteristics of grit – courage, consciousness, long-term goal oriented, resilient, and excellence rather than perfection focused – are more likely to succeed. Five Characteristics of Grit is well worth a read for any parent.

Sport teaches us to set high standard and commit to our goals. Through proper training we teach boys that they are in control of their environment and that losses should be seen as temporary obstacles that challenge us to improve.

What do we learn from sport? I would argue that the most valuable lessons that we can teach a boy can be learned in a gym, on a run, in a tough training session with teammates and then applied to all areas of their life. These are the lessons that stick with us, that transcend the playing field and permeate into the classroom and in their futures.

I would agree with Aristotle that excellence is a habit. Sport teaches that habits affect outcomes, it teaches us to strive for high goals, to develop resilience in overcoming obstacles and to develop a growth mindset as we strive to reach those goals.

Challenge your son through sport to set high standards, challenge them to commit to hard work, to overcome obstacles and challenge them to be ‘excellent’. They will carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives.

Written by Graham Pattison, Director of Sport, The Scots College


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