We have some friends and relatives that don’t like and don’t appreciate sports. We respect them and their homes and social events. We attend the events and smile and broach topics that might interest them.
Some of these people don’t have televisions in their main living area. From what I understand, they don’t have televisions in their main living area to inspire organic conversation about the arts, current events, music, politics, or religion. In their mind, I think they believe sports are a topic of trivial conversation for the common man/woman. This does not bother us. As the saying goes, to each their own.
One acquaintance we have completely dismisses the thought of learning anything substantive from watching or attending a sporting event.
He’s said things to us before like:
“Someone’s gonna win and someone’s gonna lose and there’s going to be some scoring.”
“Most likely Cleveland will lose. They always lose. They’ll lose when you have grandchildren.”
“That owner is stealing your money.”
“You should spend your time doing something productive.”
We smile when he says these things and play along. He’s old and it’s thoughtful to respect elders. When you only have to interact with individuals like this at a few functions per year, and they are deep down a good person, and this is their schtick, you know what to expect and prepare yourself for it. On the outside I am polite and cordial, but on the inside, when he goes on a rant, I’m rolling my eyes times a thousand.
Obviously, he’s right in a way, there are many more aspects of life that are more important in life than sports.
When there is a national disaster, sporting events are cancelled and rescheduled. The security of our nation I would think is a high priority. Food, clothing and shelter are vital to survival. Your overall health and emotional well-being are probably up there. The list of things more important than sports could get pretty lengthy and vast. However, watching sports events can entail so much more than winning and losing and the actual game on the field.
There are life stories for adults that can help them find motivation, perspective, and inspiration in their own personal lives. There are stories of perseverance. There are sports stories with political or racial lessons. There are stories of dedication. There are stories of failure. There are redemption stories. Sports can teach us so much when you look beyond the score on the scoreboard. The same has can be said when learning through sports as a child. This has been most recently evident over the last year when preparing our twins to be ready to go to the full-time, all day, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest world… also known as kindergarten.
When assessing their readiness for school and hearing some of the general knowledge type questions they are being evaluated with during their first few weeks of school, it has been mind-boggling to think of the knowledge they’ve acquired from watching sporting events. Be it in-person or on the television, sports has given them a head start in nearly all of the primary school subjects.
Below is a list of subject areas and social/behavioral norms, of which, watching sports can prepare children for kindergarten and a lifelong appreciation for learning.
1. Watching sports teaches children the basics of following rules –
Penalty flags. Personal fouls. The penalty box. A year long suspension. Getting ejected from a game. Each time one of these things happen when children watch a sporting event, the next question out of their mouths is, “why?” When explaining “the why” to children about these penal actions, it is a perfect opportunity to point out that like in life, and like in a classroom setting, sports have rules and regulations that each participant must abide by in order to be permitted to play the game.
2. Watching sports teaches children about geography –
This year we had the opportunity to take our children to Major League baseball games in Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit. Next year, we are thinking of traveling to St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. During these trips, the kids have learned about the origins of each city. They’ve learned out the important rivers, ports and bodies of waters that are nearby. We’ve talked about local landmarks, famous settlers, major cities, surrounding states, state capitals, and local climates. For example, a joke about the Detroit “Motor City Kitties” (Tigers) turned into a conversation about the production of automobiles, Henry Ford and how Michigan is shaped like a mitten and has an upper peninsula area.
3. Watching sports teaches children how to share and sacrifice for the betterment of the group –
Scoring a lot of points is cool in basketball, right? Scoring goals in soccer is the point of the game, right? Absolutely these statements are true, but that’s not necessarily always how you win. In these team sports, full blown offense is not always the winningest strategy. Parallels can be drawn to the classroom. Teamwork is essential to the success of a team. One bad apple can spoil the bunch. Sacrificing your own wants and desires for a group victory can build relationships, friendships, and introduce ideas of loyalty and reliability.
4. Watching sports develops simple math skills –
Whether it be baseball, golf or shuffleboard, watching sports in-person or on television is a practice of counting. Many times my kids will ask, questions about hypothetical situations that may happen later in a game. So if the home baseball team is winning 6-2 over the away team, how many runs will it take to tie the game? How many to win? If the bases are loaded (a runner on first, second and third base) and there is a player batting, what if the batter hits a home run and all the runners scored? What would the score be? After going through what seems like a trillion hypothetical situations, the kids learn simple addition and subtraction by default. You’d be surprised at how quickly the basis for multiplication and division begin as well when talking about sports. If daddy and mommy bought two tickets to all eight professional football games this year, how many total tickets did they buy? As they say, math is everywhere, but it is especially present and easy to understand when watching sports.
5. Watching sports can help children learn to read and spell –
Whether it be learning how to spell the name of the mascot of your favorite team or sounding out the last name of the player that scored the winning touchdown, watching sports can spark curiosity when it comes to reading and spelling. Now if your kindergartener can spell the last name of former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the first try, you may want to have them Doogie Houser baby genius tested.
6. Watching sports teaches children about symbolism, patriotism and business –
There are so many things to visually see at a professional sporting event. There are the players, the jerseys, coaches, flags, banners, advertisements, pomp and circumstance. Whether you’re bowing your head and remaining quiet for the National Anthem or watching the Goodyear blimp soar gracefully to capture bird’s eye view pictures from above, there are teaching moments about the world around us at every turn during sporting events. A recent conversation with the kids about the National Anthem spurned more questions about our nation’s capital, our military, the role of our President as Commander and Chief, the capital of our nation before Washington D.C. and a brief biography of the person that sewed the first flag, Betsy Ross.
7. Watching sports teaches children about elementary physics and science topics –
Over and over again when pitching batting practice to the kids in the backyard, I talk about hitting line drives. Line drives are hard hit baseballs that are tough to catch. They are the highest percentage type of strike of a bat against a ball for getting on base and scoring runs. Uppercut angled swings of the bat, by nature of the surface area of a baseball, are more likely to add loft to the batted ball and cause easy to field pop-ups. Pop-ups come down to the ground because of gravity. Similar discussions of about loft, momentum, gravity, and speed can pop up during other sports besides baseball, too.
8. Watching sports helps children identify shapes, forms of measurement and helps children gain a sense of distance –
The identification and memorization of shapes seems very simple yet this skill continues from kindergarten through elementary school, middle school, high school and then often times shows up on college entrance exams. Whether it be a round tennis ball or a oval shaped tennis racket, sporting equipment and venues are full of shapes. Sports also help children learn about distance and measuring too. Football may be the best example for distance. In football, teams get four chances to advance the oblong shaped pigskin 10 yards or else they must turn the ball over to the control of the other team. A football field is 100 yards long. There are three feet in a yard and twelve inches in a foot. When children can conceptualize distance in terms of inches, feet, yards and miles, then they can start thinking how these things relate to time. If the corner drug store is 300 yards from our house, it would not take the family a long time to drive there compared to the house of their grandmother which is 40 miles away.
So the next time you and your children are bored and thinking of something to do, consider watching a sporting event with them in-person or on television. Keep track of the score and who wins, but also realize that by them asking and you answering questions about the event, you’re potentially giving them a heads up on the kindergarten competition.