Growing up in Buckeye, Arizona, I can tell you first-hand how hard it can
be for a kid to keep physically fit. In a town with hot summers and a
desert climate, it is sometimes too hot to run around outdoors. But even
in milder climates, you can see how waistlines continue to grow as kids
tend to stay inside to play video games and watch television. It’s
exactly this lack of activity that can hinder a kid’s future health
and lead to major issues caused by obesity. So I’d like to remind
you of the importance of sports in schools as a way to help combat what
many people feel is an epidemic of overweight and out-of-shape children,
and as a tool to teach valuable life lessons.
Participation in sports and other physical activities benefitted me greatly
growing up. In addition to the health benefits of exercise, sports allowed
me to hang out with my buddies and to make new friends. Sports offer kids
a change from the seeming monotony of their daily life: How many times
have you heard a child complain that there’s nothing to do when
they won’t even go outside to play? For me, baseball was not only
a source of entertainment and a way to stay physically active, it allowed
me to develop social skills and gave me a well-deserved break from studying.
Sports also counteract unhealthy eating habits that could lead to diabetes,
high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and other
serious diseases later on. And when children are physically active, they
not only tend to perform better academically, they tend to have a better
quality of life: Their energy levels are higher, their risk of cancer
is lower, and, due to the increased release of endorphins that results
from strenuous exercise, they are at less risk of depression.
For me, sitting in a classroom all day was way more exhausting than playing
back-to-back games on the road, and it has been shown time and time again
that schooling with no physical activity can lead to mental exhaustion.
Playing sports in school allowed me to burn off pent-up energy and refresh
my mind. It didn’t matter to me what sport or game we played; the
ability to compete, run, and simply get out and move, allowed me to relax
and maintain my focus when I returned to the classroom.
I also enjoyed the feeling of group achievement and being part of something.
Getting satisfaction out of working together is an important skill for
kids to learn, and one of the best parts about playing team sports in
school was the feeling of belonging, of fitting in—it was a bonding
experience that encouraged us to work together toward a common goal. And
it feels amazing when you are winning with your friends.
To be sure, I did and still do, enjoy competition, and sports allow children
to participate in healthy competition. There are some criticisms of children
being encouraged to over compete, but life is filled with competition,
and kids become more mature when they learn that you don’t always
win. This certainly included me: basketball was not my best sport, but
learning how to handle losing a basketball game was just as important
as the joy of winning a baseball game.
Competition also instills values of teamwork, discipline, morale, self-confidence,
and responsibility, all of which are vital if children are to grow up
into well-rounded adults. I mean, not even the Angels can win every game.
Even though we give it our best effort every time, we have to rebound
from a loss and be ready to do what it takes to win the next one. Sports
teach children to shake hands when they win, hold their head up when they
lose, and meet the challenges of life.
Kole Calhoun is right fielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Photos courtesy of Angels Baseball. Angels, Angels Marks, and Los Angeles
Angels of Anaheim are registered trademarks of Angels Baseball LP.