As an educator I always encouraged parents to enrol their kids for team games. When there is an only child very often they get everything they want and are always indulged, this often leads to kids who want their way and get into fights at school. In our school we had summer sports camp and kids used to come in huge numbers early in the morning for the exercise followed by the coaching. It was so interesting to see the change that came over the kids once they became team players.
Team games build self-esteem: A well done from a teammate or coach, a group hug when things go well, and collective responsibility are all essential for developing self-esteem. It is important to get your child to learn to accept failure along with success. Solving a problem like how to run and dribble faster or kick further will boost their confidence. Losing helps them cope with disappointments and winning helps build their confidence. How many mothers have newspaper cuttings carefully preserved where the child’s name is mentioned or he/she appears in a photograph? These are passed on to relatives and friends, and builds their sense of self-worth.
Provides regular exercise: Kids need physical activity to build strength, coordination and confidence and lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. Children naturally build strong muscles and bones when they run jump and play. The fitness here is not forced but done in a healthy competitive environment. It also helps children to accept their limitations.
Teaches leadership skills: Looking out for others is one of the essential skills of a good leader and as a team player this becomes second nature. Children learn to emulate good team leaders. They learn to think for a team other than themselves. Collective responsibility is developed. I remember my son used to be the tiny fellow who ran and passed the ball to the taller guys who scored the baskets and made the winning move but he knew he was valued and was a game changer. He was the captain of his team for this and knew the importance of passing the ball and not hogging it.
Teaches the importance of practice: The endless drills and throwing baskets, passing and guarding were so important, here is where they learned the importance of repeating the same task over and over again to get mastery over a skill this spills on to activities other than sports.
Teaches the importance of resilience: Not giving up in the face of failure but learning from mistakes is so important. Sitting and understanding why they lost a game, and working at improving skills and tactics develops skill. Being gracious victors and good losers builds character.
Teaches organisational skills: The kids had a busy schedule but once they were committed it was a done thing that they had to – keep their kit ready, fit in practice time, homework time, time for friends, time for TV programmes and time for music.
Develops team working skills: Clear communication and ability to take direction is so important in life and this is what being a team player is all about. The WE and not the I, the greater good.
Develops adeptness at working independently and taking responsibility for themselves: this comes from a strong desire to not let down one’s teammates. No one would like to be late and hold up practice or not turn up with the proper shoes.
Helps build strong relationships: The training together, the victory celebrations, the analysis of failures, the trust and respect given and the time spent together helps bond them. I remember how the rascals worked together and fooled their scout master. They were given a task of making six table mats each, with cross stitch borders. These six boys worked together each one made one mat and somehow managed to get all six assessed for
each one as a set, even we parents had no idea what webs these ‘crooks’ were weaving!
Teaches discipline: Following rules, obeying a coach, putting the team before oneself. Very often when the children went for National level matches they had to stay with people from all strata of society and had to eat what was put in front of them I remember going to see my cauliflower-hating son at the camp and watching amazed as he ate cauliflower and roti.
In school, working with a team of teachers over the years we pick up skills, learn how to pick up verbal cues, the intricacies of group dynamics and the skill and tact we have to employ. I am sure this is a feature of any place where there is team work.
So fellow parents encourage team games and enrol your kids and you will have leaders who play by the rules and are not fazed by failure or swollen headed with success.
Here’s to 2021 hope our children can once again go to play and grow to be caring sympathetic adults
(Writer is a volunteer in local schools and a trustee with Sethu)