By Bill Costello 2016
GET YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS INVOLVED IN SPORTS
When Michael Phelps was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at age nine, no one could have predicted that Phelps would become the most accomplished Olympian—winning eight gold medals. His mother—who was a teacher at the time—understood the importance of sports in positively influencing her son’s life.
When young Phelps had difficulty reading, his mother gave him the sports section of newspapers to peak his interest. When he had problems with math, she hired a tutor who created word problems related to sports.
Phelps decided he wanted to stop taking stimulant medication when he was in sixth grade. The self-discipline required of sports helped him to stay focused without medication.
Sports have much to offer boys—mentally, socially, and physically.
I learned some of my most valuable life lessons when I was a long-distance runner in high school. Running competitively helped me develop characteristics that would prove to be beneficial both on and off the field.
Receiving feedback from my track coach helped me develop the ability to listen to constructive criticism and make adjustment accordingly. Setting benchmarks for improving my speed taught me how to make short-term sacrifices in order to achieve long-term goals. Running on relay teams cultivated my ability to work with others to achieve a common goal. Struggling to reach goals taught me to persevere. Reaching goals strengthened my self-esteem.
All of these characteristics can be transferred from sports to other areas of life, and they are essential to success in school and on the job.
While more girls than boys participate in after-school clubs and student government, more boys than girls participate in sports. Research shows that boys prefer interactive social activities that involve more physical aggression and less verbalization.
Boys frequently make friends by playfully demonstrating aggressive behavior. Many of them find it easier to openly express emotion through sports than in other situations.
Boys need sports now more than ever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that today’s boys are four times more likely to be obese than boys were three decades ago. Increasingly, obese boys are being hospitalized for asthma, diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and sleep apnea. They are not getting enough exercise and are paying for it with their health.
Parents should encourage their sons to participate in sports, even if those sports are dangerous and violent—like football and hockey. Boys are at greater risk for health problems when they are sedentary than when they are playing aggressive sports.
The fact of the matter is that many boys have aggressive impulses. Sports can serve as a healthy outlet for those impulses. Without sports, boys may act out their aggression in less socially acceptable ways.
Sports helped develop young Phelps into a successful adult. They can do the same for your sons.#
Bill Costello, training director of Making Minds Matter, teaches parents and teachers the best strategies for educating boys. He can be reached at http://www.makingmindsmatter.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.