What Sports Can Teach.


Preparing for the unexpected: what sports can teach.

Last night I stood in the school’s parking lot as the vans were returning from away games and races. I love the stories our student--athletes tell of their grand conquests and epic voyages when they return to the safe harbor of Dublin School.

“Mr. Bates! They had a forward that was nine feet tall!”

“Mr. Bates! The mountain bike course was all uphill, even the downhill!”

“Mr. Bates! Suzy scored her first ever goal!”

“Mr. Bates! They said the cross country course was three miles long, but it was like eighteen miles long!”

These wonderful moments reminded me of an article I read recently about how sports can help people prepare for the unexpected. As much as we like to have control over our lives, we, or at least I tend to spend a good deal of time preparing for and responding to the unexpected. Young people, while often confident about the future trajectories of their lives are often quite nervous about the unexpected or unknown they are facing.

Helping kids develop confidence in their ability to respond to unexpected events is an area where sports and our coaches can help. At Dublin School, and many schools like it, our coaches spend a good amount of time preparing our students to survive and thrive when confronted with an unexpected situation: a team that is much better than we anticipated, a star player, a tiny field, inclement weather, an injured teammate, terrible officiating, unsportsmanlike play, etc.. How do we want our athletes to handle adversity, success, or a difficult working environment? How do we prepare our students so that they are ready when their opportunity to contribute our shine presents itself?

Good coaching, parenting and teaching can help students not just tolerate the unknown and unexpected, but thrive and enjoy an environment in which they do not what is going to happen next. Isn’t that why we enjoy playing and watching sports so much? We never know exactly what is going to happen in a race or game—that should be the fun of it.