No matter whether you are a former collegiate athlete or weekend warrior, there’s no denying that sports can help you in many aspects of your life. We’ve all heard about the health benefits of sport, but beside that, there are plenty of other benefits that can be earned through hard work, dedication, and team work.
If you don’t believe me, look no further than the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. After hundreds of injuries and deaths, the city of Boston banded together around the Red Sox and cheered them on throughout the month of April and into the summer. After becoming World Series Champions in October, there was a strong sense of pride, nationalism, and perseverance for a city that had found solidarity through tragedy.
When you examine sports on any level, there are always the little triumphs that fans and athletes can share. Maybe it’s seeing your son or daughter make their first basket during their basketball game, or maybe it’s watching two countries come together and squash any geo-political animosity. Regardless, here are ten lessons that all fans and athletes can thank the world of sports for giving them in the game of life.
10. Healing From the Inside Out
There are countless stories that show how important sports can be in helping you recover from traumatic events. Take Brett Favre for instance. Aside from his flip flopping decisions to retire, Favre put on a brilliant performance after his father’s death in a game against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. After deciding to play the day after his father’s death, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns en route to a whopping 41-7 win as the Packers stomped the Raiders. Although it’s just one example, the emotional coping that sports provides can be an effective emotional outlet as we look to recover from some of life’s most trying times.
9. Putting Political Differences Aside
For years, countries have put politics aside and just played the game, regardless of the political implications involved with it. With outstanding animosity from the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the United States’ involvement in it, when Iran and the US squared off in an international friendly in 1998, both countries acted civilly. Flowers and gifts were exchanged between the two sides, putting all tension aside. On the contrary, there have been times in which clashing teams acted as microcosms of a much larger problem. In 1958, rather than playing for fame and glory, the Algerians that were called upon to join the French National team banded together to create their own team and fight for their independence against the French on the pitch. Either way, sports helps to put large and wide ranging differences in perspective, even if it is just for 90 minutes.
8. Overcoming Adversity
Injuries, lack of unity, and unfair judgment calls can do more than derail athletic ambitions. However, it’s how you rebound from those situations that will help forge mental toughness and help you to overcome those obstacles. For professional NFL players trying to make roster cuts after summer workouts, overcoming adversity can be the difference between making it big or going bust. Take Maurice Clarett for instance. The former Ohio State standout running back had all the tools at his disposal to be successful. But after the ruling that he was ineligible for the NFL draft after his freshman year, his athleticism and mental toughness took a hit while he was away from the game. After a failed tryout with the Denver Broncos after being drafted, Clarett disappeared from the spotlight and ultimately left millions of dollars and his ambitions on the table, all because he could not overcome that obstacle on his path to the NFL.
7. Working As A Team
At the very basis of sport, teamwork will outshine any individual accomplishment most of the time. Sure, you may have been a star quarterback or pitcher, but without a strong supporting cast behind you, you shouldn’t expect too much success. Working as a team not only helps you on the field but it will also help you in other aspects of your life. In school while working on projects, trying to plan vacations with a group of your friends, and even in the workplace. As Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
6. Self-Reliance and Motivation
There is something to be said about a strong, independent man or woman, and more often than not, they can thank the world of sports for shaping them that way. When you get knocked down, it’s important to know how to get back on your feet by yourself. By building up self-resiliency, you are able to stand on firm ground and your future self will more than thank you for doing so.
When Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in December of 2011, people from all over the world thought that it would be at least a 12 month healing process, and even then, several more months before he could get up to speed. After having surgery on Christmas Eve, Peterson returned to the gridiron less than nine months later and rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back. Peterson’s lightning quick recovery is just one example of a sound body-mind connection. If you are mentally tough and resilient, the sky’s the limit after you get knocked down.
5. The Importance of Knowing Your Role
Very similar to being able to play on a team, it’s also important to know your role within the team. With all the talent in the world, if it doesn’t come together, little can be accomplished. Some of the greatest teams in sports have had just a handful of good athletes, yet they won became each player knew their role.
The “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s and early 1990s were the epitome of role players. With a nucleus of players such as Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson to build off, the Pistons added brawn with Bill Laimberre to battle in the post and another bully in Rich Mahorn from the Washington Bullets. Together, the team achieved success because each player knew his responsibilities. When the roles were challenged and disrupted, the front office was quick to rid the team of the distractions, ensuring that chemistry remained paramount as the team went on to win the NBA Championship in 1989 and 1990.
4. Being Confident, Not Cocky
There’s a fine line between being confident and cocky. By the time you’ve reached college, you probably have a good idea of who has mastered this trait and who hasn’t. Being involved with sports throughout your youth will not only allow you to be involved with different groups of young people, but it will also teach you how to have a little pep in your step after you’ve made a good play. While some may argue that Michael Jordan was downright cocky, there’s no denying his confidence was vital in his success throughout his NBA and even his MLB career. To branch out and experience new things you need to have confidence and a little bit of swag. Don’t be afraid to walk with your chest out and your head up, just don’t cross the line and be that guy.
3. Preparing Like a Champion
There’s no better stage to experience the success and pitfalls of preparation than in sports. When you prepare for a game, you can feel it. Similarly, you can feel it when you haven’t done enough and find yourself behind the 8-ball right before the game. The lessons learned through sports can have a lasting impact on your life and your professional career. It helps to set you up for success and help you to plan ahead, not just to fly by the seat of your pants. If you need an example of preparation, go ahead and check out Peyton Manning during a game week. The hours he spends on the field, but most importantly in the film room, have paid off with their weight in gold and then some.
2. The Feeling of Humility
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” If you think about it, there really isn’t a truer explanation of what humility actually is. Similar to being confident and not cocky, humility is one of the least talked about lessons we can learn from sports, but one of the most important. Sure, it’s OK to talk about hitting a big shot or winning a huge game, but remaining humble will go much further with fans than constantly talking about yourself. For this, we’ll look at LeBron James and Chris Paul. Both are world-class athletes, and James is no doubt a better all-around player than Paul. However, the way Paul conducts himself off the court and his willingness to remain humble has helped him to win fans over.
1. Overall Health
Sports will teach you at a young age to respect your body and to hold onto your health. We all thought we were invincible when we were 8 years old, and it may have been true to an extent. However, once you get older you start to slow down and appreciate the little things a little bit more. Being healthy isn’t just physical, it’s mental and emotional as well. Take time each day to exercise not only physically, but mentally as well. By taking care of our minds, we will be able to live longer and more purposeful lives. The lessons we’ve learned from sports not only help us in our own pickup leagues and beer league athletic careers, but they can also be used in business and family life as well, which is even more of a reason to take care of yourself.