When I became a dad, I realized that in my hands were two small treasures (yeah, I had twins!). Life had given me the blessing of two magical beings, who I could help guide in the world. The ability to help a child discover the world and themselves is one of the most awesome and rewarding responsibilities any of us can ever have. As a parent, uncle or aunt, teacher or friend, one of the most incredible gifts we can give a child is to share the passion for sport.
When you share the passion for sport with a child, you show them what life is really about. When you share the passion of sport with a child, what you teach them is that:
When you share your passion, you are teaching a child that they matter. Kicking a ball together, running, biking, playing catch builds a bond forever. They will remember that you saw them for who they are. You saw their potential, believed in them, were proud of them. They will remember how it felt to matter to someone else. That will give them the strength to believe they can achieve.
In this increasingly isolated world of cell phones and digital connections, when you teach a child a sport, especially a team sport, you are showing them that they belong. Children need to discover who they are and what their place in the world is. A sport can help ground them and give them a home. Play a sport and you become instantly part of a team, a fan base, a nation. Share the passion for sport and you are welcoming a child from being ‘you’ to being ‘one of us’.
You’re Meant To Get Moving
Teach a child a sport and they will develop greater enjoyment of all forms of physical activity. You are giving them the gift of experiencing a healthy body and guiding them to have improved bone health, lower stress, less anxiety and better sleep. Humans were not meant to sit all day, or look at devices all day. We were designed to move. Playing a sport for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week helps a child feel the blood flow in their veins, the power of their muscles, and the ability of their brains to focus. Teach them young and they will grow to be active and healthy individuals.
It’s Not Just About You
Sports offer the best alternative to today’s world of ‘me’ and ‘mine’. A sport teaches a child that no one does it all alone. It’s about a team. It’s about the we. In sport they learn to trust and rely on others and to become those others can rely on and trust. That discipline, respect for authority and dedication to the we are.
Even the Mighty Fall
In a world of perfect life on Facebook and Instagram posts, sport teaches a child that even the mighty fall. Messi can miss a penalty kick and Memo Ochoa sometimes let’s one in. Everyone loses sometimes. Sport is a great way to learn how to compete, win, fail and overcome major barriers. It’s what you learn when you are down that helps you most. As Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
You Gotta Celebrate
After this most challenging year of all, sport can teach a child that life is to be celebrated with joy and intensity. When my daughter was ready to learn to play soccer, the first thing I taught her was to celebrate scoring a goal. We danced, fell on our knees, put our shirt over our heads, did our little corner dance and pointed our fingers to the sky, Messi-style. What I showed her was the joy first, then there was plenty of time to learn how to kick. This past year, in the middle of the pandemic, we went to an empty field and played together. I’m sure she won’t remember how many times she or I scored, but I know she will never forget how we danced together to celebrate being on the field.
You Can Live Forever
When my grandfather Jacobo turned 90 years old, I took him to the stadium to watch his beloved team. It was years after he was too old to go (my mom almost killed me of course) and it turned out to be the last time he would ever go. But a magical thing happened. That day, I got to meet my grandfather, not the old man but the young fan. We sat together, felt the roar of the crowd and cheered for a beautiful goal. Now, over a decade later, I sit with my daughter who wears his jersey watching our beloved team on the other side of the world. And you better believe every time we score, my grandfather is right there with us and he lives forever in our chant of ‘Goooooooooooooooooool’.