Saturday, July 5, 2008
Facts have been emerging that are showing what many have suspected for years: all things being equal otherwise, if a kid plays sports, he or she will earn more money, stay in school longer, and be more engaged in civic life. 'The American' magazine recently highlighted this in an article titled "Little League, Huge Effect" which you can read by clicking into the title of this blog entry (as always, my blog titles are also links.) One of their points is that almost all of life in a capitalist society involves some form of competition, and young athletes learn the formula for success in a market-based system. You can wish that wasn't so, you can point to some examples of non-athletes making it big, you can fight the numbers in your head. But the fact is, kids who play sports learn teamwork, learn competition, learn how to harness their emotions, interact live with other kids and adults, and in general get a tremendous start on life. We are not just talking about the best athletes, the stars or even the starters on a team, we are talking about every kid who becomes actively engaged in athletics. Purdue and Texas Tech Universities examined surveys of 1970's high school grads, and found that those who participated in athletics achieved a level of education 25-35 percent higher than their non-athlete classmates, had 12-31 percent higher wages, and estimate that (again, all other things being equal) athletes earn roughly 6% more than non-athletes. A 2006 study from the University of Maryland found that athletes also become more active citizens. They are 15% more likely to register to vote, 14% more likely to be news watchers, 8% more likely to feel comfortable speaking in public. For females, the public speaking numbers are actually double. As the article stated, "the basic lesson of youth sports, that hard work can lead to excellence, is one that can transform lives." Can a kid benefit from playing team or individual sports even if they are not one of the better players? Heck, let's be blunt, even if they don't have an athletic bone in their bodies, and actually 'stink' at sports? Yup. Simply by participating, kids learn about teamwork, extending effort, celebration of small personal and group achievements, and many other valuable lessons. Is there anything bad about overly emphasizing competitiveness? I say, no way. Personally, I wish that I had pushed my own kids more and earlier into team sports. It was a mistake on my part not to, but as a young parent I just didn't appreciate these things for what would be their true value. My kids are great, but I have no doubt that participation in sports on a regular basis from a young age would have helped them immeasurably in many ways. I was always into athletics myself, not just in my youth, but into and through my adult life. I have no doubt that it helped me in many ways. Get your kids into youth athletics, and keep them there. Go to their games. Play catch with them. Watch sports on TV with them. Play athletic video games with them (but NEVER let them play video games more than they play real sports.) Make this effort for your kids, and you will reap the benefits as they grow. More importantly, THEY will reap the benefits throughout their lives.