Learning Life Through Sports
Cale H. Hansen
Life will throw the worst and the best at us, who we are, is how we deal with what is being thrown. In many cases the closest obstacles that could compare to life are the ones we go through in sports. I grew up playing golf, I was the eight year old that was dropped off to chip and putt for three hours after school while my parents finished their work day. I have learned a few life principles over the years, I would like to share what I have learned while looking into what research has studied about sports and how they impact our development.
Golf Practice brought much success when I was young, I would win most of the local junior tournaments. Life was going my way and I got carried away, lost in the success, I lost my motivation to practice. I started to play worse and worse while all of the kids I was competing with got better and better. Learning the importance of hard work came at a big cost to me, I lost the leg up that I had on the competition. After a playing a few years in this drought of winning, I decided that I wanted another go at golf, I wanted to win like I had when I was young. I started practicing with big goals in mind, taking my high school golf career seriously, practicing everyday, reading books and magazines, learning how to improve my golf game in every way that I could. I learned how to work hard even in the absence of success.
High school didn’t bring the success that I had hoped, I struggled with not being able to capitalize on good shots that I would hit, this in turn hurt my overall score, which lead to losing tournaments. In one specific tournament I had made five birdies in a row on the front nine, I was under par, with eight holes left to play but I wasn’t able to finish out the round strong, I made a few mistakes causing me to finish at even par 72 which ended up in a tie for first place. It’s heartbreaking to stand in the clubhouse at the end of a tournament, watching score after score come in below yours written up on the scoreboard. That day I tried my hardest and ended up missing first place by only one stroke. Life is just that way though, it can give you all of the success in the world and then in an instant take it away. Whether we are on life’s high or low, I have learned we need to continually work hard. This has helped me in other aspects of my life such as college, studying and completing my homework even when I don’t want to. Hard work has helped me in my marriage because there are mornings when I don’t want to wake up at five o’clock to help my wife get ready for work.
After finishing high school, I thought, how fun it would be to play golf on a college team and then maybe even play on the professional tour but deciding to go on a church mission for two years halted all of that. On my mission I experienced two changes, one for worse and one for better. Halfway through my mission I had given up on the idea of playing on the professional level and even gave up on playing at the collegiate level. One day in the last few weeks of my mission, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, after I got home. Golf was ever present in my mind, and I remembered back to how much I loved the game. I decided to make a deal with God and myself that I would give golf two years, if I wasn’t playing on a college team within that time period of getting home from my mission I would find a “real career”. The contingency was that I was going to give golf everything that I had, I was going to work as hard as I could for those two years.
A year and a half later I still hadn’t gotten my game back to the collegiate level, until I got the phone number for Blair Garner, the men’s Head Golf Coach at Southern Virginia University. Over that year and a half I needed to learn patience in my hard work especially when I wasn’t seeing the improvements that I wanted to see. I was able to learn the importance of goals, having the end result in mind, helped me to see the big picture in the times of disappointment. This has helped me overcome other challenges that have come from moving 2,000 miles away to play college golf.
Golf isn’t the only sport that has helped people learn life lessons, Madison Bess talks about what she learned through rowing and gymnastics. There are three that really stood out to me in her article. She first talks about optimism, in sports being positive can change the outcome of a game or match. Giving up would be the opposite of a positive attitude, Madison adds to the give up attitude by saying, “This type of negative attitude is detrimental, and I have learned the same in real life situations. Negativity only hurts you. Positivity is what will help you. I am a “look at the glass half full” kind of girl thanks to my sports”.
Time Management can have a major effect on our lives, if we can manage our time wisely we will be able to accomplish a lot more in a shorter amount of time. Madison learned this most when she needed to balance her school work with her sports activities/practices. It sounds simple but it is hard to do when, “I would practice 30 to 40 hours a week and needed to do homework in addition to that”. Madison also knew the importance of her studies,saying, “I would get my homework done before practice, and at one point, I even went on a modified schedule to be able to have more time for schoolwork”. Being able to manage our time wisely will help us in our careers, relationships, and in the home. I know that sometimes it is hard, juggling all of the household duties that need to be finished each week on top of the school work and sport activities that I have.
One way gymnastics is like golf is that even though schools have teams and the players practice and travel together, the team cannot help the player in a competition, at a golf tournament as teammates we can’t even talk with one another because it could be seen as giving advice which is a breach of the rules. Madison didn’t like this way of teamwork, this is why rowing interested her, she explains, “you aren’t on your own in the sport of rowing. You are pulling (rowing) for you and eight other girls”. The team needed to work together in order to row the boat faster, if the girls with off pace with each other the speed of the boat would decrease.
All of this talk about learning deep lessons from sports got researchers interested in the effect that sports/after school activities have on children. This research team used interviews to track and measure how the students were progressing through a 12-week program. “The findings revealed that the afterschool program facilitated the adolescents’ life skills development in the following four areas: playing well, connecting well, coping well, and dreaming well” (Okseon Lee). Even though these four areas seem like they wouldn’t have that much of an impact, Madison’s and my life examples have shown that these areas are seeds that grow into bigger lessons.
Sports in a person’s life, especially when this person has grown up playing sports will give them a leg up in life experience, they will be able to better cope with what life throws at them and will be more successful in their careers and accomplishing their life goals. I know that I would not be where I am at today, if it wasn’t for golf, I would not be married to the most beautiful girl in the world because my life would have taken me on a completely different path. Whether we grew up playing sports or not I would encourage all of us to give our children the opportunity to strengthen their life skills early on through not only sports specifically but also group activities that help children learn to communicate effectively and interact with one another.
10 Life Lessons We’ve Learned from Playing Golf • Graceful Golfer. (2018, February 26). Retrieved from https://gracefulgolfer.com/2018/02/life-lessons/
Okseon Lee, Mirim Park.Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2017; 12(1):1307060.Published online 2017 Apr 3. doi: [10.1080/17482631.2017.1307060]
Fauzee, O., M.S. (2012, March). The Strategies for Character Building Through Sports Participation. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from http://hrmars.com/admin/pics/651.pdf
Halpin, Kimberly (2008) “Confidence in College Athletics,” Journal of Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato: Vol. 8, Article 4.
Bess, M. (2015, November 23). Life Lessons Sports Have Taught Me. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/life-lessons-sports-have-taught-me