5 Important life lessons we have learned from sports

Here at the Duke of Ed, we are always encouraging kids to keep active in a multitude of ways. Exercising doesn’t always have to coincide with working out, and it doesn’t always have to be an excruciating activity. One fun way to keep in shape is to get involved in sports. We have learned some valuable life lessons from engaging in sports, and so in honour of today’s official start to the Rio Olympics we wanted to highlight the five most important ones for you.

1. Empathy

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You may not remember every game – every goal scored or every slam dunk – but what you will remember is the time spent with your team. You will remember the time you spent on the bus going to and from the games, and the laughs you shared in the locker room. Sports taught us all about friendship – what is means to have trusting relationships with people you can count on, and who share similar interests. Our teammates were our sisters, our brothers, and our confidants. Along with the coach, they taught empathy: the ability to feel another’s emotion. When one teammate hurt, we all hurt. With the ability to understand each other, follows the ability to depend on each other. When you open yourself up to empathy and dependability, you can anticipate your teammate’s moves – pass the ball or the puck without looking up for confirmation – you know they are going to be there.

2. Anticipation

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Ever wonder how someone like Sydney Crosby always seems to be in the right place at exactly the right time? No, he isn’t psychic, (as far as we know...) he is anticipating the action. Anticipation is the visualization of a future event or state. When you begin to understand the way your teammates move – you can collectively make plays together, making split-second decisions from months or years of practicing and playing together. Anticipation is what keeps you one step ahead of your opponent. Whether it’s one-on-one, or you’re up against a slew of players – you must keep your wits about you to avoid reckless decisions. This is an incredibly useful skill to have in all aspects of life. Whether it’s at home, school or at work, being able to anticipate another’s needs (sometimes before they even know it themselves!) is what will help you to rise above the average person and exceed expectations. Not to mention, completing chores before you are asked is a great way to score some extra points with the ‘rents.

3. The Importance of Character

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The Olympic motto Citius - Altius – Fortius translated from Latin means Better-Higher-Faster. To be at your very best, you must be focused and patient. These qualities define athletes in their quest for greatness. You learn to eat better, to be more mindful of your body, and to push yourself as hard, and as safely as you can. Giving up is easy. Endurance is hard. Working through the tough times is what builds character. You may have heard people talk about building character and though to yourself “what does that even mean, and why does it matter?” Your character is all the little pieces that come together to create your personality. When you make a commitment, and stick to it, people take notice. If you consistently give 100%, your coach knows that you are someone who is responsible, and therefore, you can be counted on. You earn respect. Your character – whether you like it or not – defines you. It is who you are. You should be asking yourself every day: What kind of person do I want to be?

4. Leadership

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Even if you aren’t the captain of your team, every player at one point in their sports career must step up to the plate. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.) When we think of leaders, we often think in broad terms – we think of people who have made a huge and lasting impact in the world, but rarely do we assess the little steps that person needed to take in order to change lives. Leadership is defined by the small things you do. Just like building your character, true leaders don’t just emerge out of the dust – they are built up through each conscious action over time. True leaders make small, individual differences every day, and everywhere they go. You don’t have to lead a revolution. Often it is the little moments that count, like addressing the ref in a calm and respectful manner when the other team is playing dirty. Or offering a helping hand to a fallen athlete – whether they play for your team or not. A true leader inspires others around them to be their best self. When thinking about what it means to be a leader, keep in mind these words of wisdom from Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A true leader doesn’t create change alone. They recognizing and encourage the potential existing within each individual.

5. Responsibility

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How many Canadians have memories of early morning hockey practices – waking up before dawn to get in that one hour of available ice time? How many of you have spent hours perfecting your shot, your kick or your swing? If there is anything that sports has taught us, it is that the difference between being a good player, and being a great player, is taking responsibility for your actions. Every time you get out there instead of sitting in your room alone, you are making a choice. You are choosing to better yourself.

We may play sports for the love and fun of the game, but like life, nothing comes easy, and nothing comes for free. Everyone wants to win. No one is going to hand you a gold medal on a silver platter. You have to earn your title. Like every athlete in Rio knows – you have to earn your place on that podium through blood, sweat and tears. Being responsible doesn’t mean you are boring. It means that people trust you. It means that your character speaks for you. It means you are resilient. It means that you are ready to face any challenge head on. It means that you are a team player. It means that you endure.