For many growing up, team sports provided a safe haven where priceless life lessons were taught, bonds were built and social skills developed. From a tech mogul like Mark Cuban to a podcast superstar like Lewis Howes, many top entrepreneurs grew up loving sports. For others, team sports may have provided a less than stellar experience.
No matter which side of the fence you were on, research is finding that putting your kids in team sports during their formative years can help provide them with the tools needed to crush it in the workplace later on in life. Specifically, a study by Cornell University found that teenagers who played sports developed stronger leadership skills, worked better in teams and demonstrated more confidence in work environments.
On top of that, according to NPR, kids who participated in youth sports were found to have higher incomes and rise up the corporate ladder faster than their peers. Here are just some of the reasons why this is the case, and how to get started.
Why put your kids in team sports?
1. Giving them the chance to lead.
No matter if your kid works their way to becoming a team captain or remains a role player, sports will allow them to hone in and create a leader’s mindset for themselves. Apart from sports, there aren’t many opportunities before your kids graduate college that help refine their leadership skills by putting them in positions to lead a team. This makes it difficult for individuals who are thrust into high-pressure, management positions in the workforce who haven’t experienced that same pressure elsewhere.
2. Learning how to lose.
Sports — unlike almost everything else in school and life — are black and white. You either won your game, lost, or it ended in a draw. This equips kids with the ability and mental stamina to sustain losses without taking it personal. Losing is all part of the game as an entrepreneur or top-performing professional. If you aren’t losing, you aren’t taking risks. Without the grit to get up the next morning with your head held high, even after a bad presentation or a missed deal, the cutthroat workplace is going to be a rough ride for your kids.
3. Developing respect for authority.
All team sports have a very clear hierarchy, much like a company does — from the coach down to the rookies. Unlike much of the media’s portrayal of entrepreneurship would like you to believe, immediate success in your youth is hard to come by. There’s a hell of a lot more VPs and middle-aged business owners than there are Mark Zuckerberg’s. The cold hard truth is, no matter who you are, you’ll almost always have people to answer to.
Even the top startup founders need to answer to their investors and customers. If your kids are too stubborn or entitled to not have a healthy respect for their higher-ups, or authority in general, sooner or later they’ll rub someone the wrong way and likely learn a lesson the hard way.
4. Team building.
Another indispensable skill sports will arm your child with is team building. Even the biggest companies are run by much smaller, fast-moving teams that work together on a close-knit basis. Without the ability needed to work well within a team environment, lift up the rest of your team and put your ego aside, it’ll be hard to stand out as an entrepreneur in any industry.
Where to Start
1. Look beyond football, baseball and basketball.
Not every kid likes baseball or football as much as the next. Luckily, in most areas around the country, your kids doesn’t need to be limited only to the most popular sports. There are leagues outside of school-organized sports kids can try like hockey, lacrosse, soccer and more.
2. Start with sports camps.
If your kid isn’t sure they want to commit to a certain sport for an entire season, try testing the waters by enrolling them in a shorter sports camp. During the summer season, these camps are plentiful and vary in commitment– ranging from day camps to week-long training. From there, you can decide on whether or not the sport is right for them.
3. Manage expectations and communicate clearly.
One of the biggest things holding back kids from joining a team is being afraid they won’t be good enough at the sport. Because they haven’t built up the confidence of playing the sport, and because of the social anxiety of being thrust into a new environment with new kids — team sports can be intimidating.
Be open and honest by explaining to your kids the benefits sports will bring them later on in life, and how they certainly don’t need to be the best on their team to develop those skills.