Considering that we live in a society where about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, I strongly believe that youth sports are more important than ever. So when I heard about the Active Family Project’s newest initiative “Play For A Change,” I had to get involved. Designed to encourage families to break sedentary routines and make play a priority, while also having a positive social impact, the Active Family Project has teamed up with both the US Youth Soccer Association & World Cup legend, Olympian, wife and mother, Brandi Chastain. Together, they will be supporting US Youth Soccer through a donation of soccer equipment to under served communities, giving more families the opportunity to be active together through soccer!
This is right up my FitGirl alley, since I spent my entire childhood and adolescent years on the soccer field. So I am not only a living witness to what this sport has and can do for the health of our youth, but what it can also do for their emotional well-being and self development. I had a blast recently chatting with my teenage FitGirl idol, Brandi Chastain and am so excited to share “what playing youth sports taught me about being an adult.”
#1 Teamwork Really Does Make The Dream Work
When I asked Brandi what life experiences she’s gained (beyond the physical) by playing soccer, we both agreed that the number one thing was teamwork. When children play on a team, it immediately instills in them the value others bring to the table and helps them constructively identify their own strengths and weaknesses. The byproducts of this union: trust, confidence and vulnerability– all which are highly attractive qualities worth having no matter what your age may be.
#2 Not Everyone Wins
I think I speak for most former and current athletes when I say, “Winning some games and losing some games” is the most valuable part of playing organized sports. I am 110% against the ideology behind some of today’s youth sports teams. For instance, while at one of my nephews Pop Warner football games, I was appalled when I realized that the score wasn’t being kept. The reason was that at that age, “everyone is a winner.” Uhmmm. No.
First of all, these kids can count and are fully aware of when they lose and when they win, and second of all, shame on you oversensitive mommies for bringing this false idea to the playing field. Learning how to lose on the field has directly affected how I handle losing in life. Whether it be in my career, relationships, etc. I know that losing doesn’t kill you…it makes you stronger. So to that I say: Dear Youth Sports: Keep keeping score because not everyone wins.
#3 Set A Goal. Reach It. Make A New One.
The goal setting that happens season to season as an athlete directly resembles the personal goals one will set season to season in their actual life. When I was five, my goal was to be able to handle the ball without falling. Or to score a goal that wasn’t for the opposing team. However, once I played soccer in high school my goal was to increase my speed and perfect my agility skills. I changed and therefore my goals changed accordingly. The same goes for life. I have no desire to achieve the same things at 31 that I did at 21. The biggest mistake you can make on and off the field is trying to make last season’s goals fit into this season’s requirements.
#4 Rain Or Shine, The Game Will Go On
One of my greatest memories playing youth soccer was one particular season when we had an abnormal amount of rain in northern California. The coaches and parents discussed canceling some games and practices since the field was semi-ruined and the constant downpour would make for unideal playing conditions. However, in the end no games or practices were cancelled and we straight up “played through it.” I never forgot this and actually call on this memory in moments when life’s circumstances are not ideal. Yes storms may come and go, but not playing is not an option. The ability to adjust despite your circumstances is invaluable and admirable, so thank you stormy soccer season for teaching me this.
#5 You Play The Way You Practice
Phrases like “you wont have to get ready if you stay ready,” or “go all out,” were on repeat my entire youth soccer career. I learned early on that the way you practice directly affects the way you play. Being late, only doing enough to get by or goofing off at practice all create memories that your mind and body will reenact when it is “game time.” Therefore the self discipline, determination and drive that was honed during practice ultimately resembled my performance on game day. And the same can be said in life. Daydreaming and hoping something happens is not what makes things happening. Good things come to those who work hard…not to those who wait. Practice like you play so when the door to opportunity opens you can sprint straight through it.