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SPORT, sport, sport; it’s an Australian obsession but it doesn’t come naturally in every household. My bookworm spouse and I don’t have a sporty bone in our bodies, but through a strange quirk of genetics our kids are sports mad.
As the year comes to an end, sports events have come in a great rush – local competitions, regionals and, last month, national championships. There’s been intensified training, many very early mornings, complicated and expensive logistics and nail-biting tension.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve had many conversations over the past few weeks with other parents about the pros and cons of sport.
For many of us, sport can become a very big part of family life. The investment of time and energy can be huge. The parents of other sporty kids become some of your closest friends as you spend many hours at the side of the oval, gym, ballet studio or, in our case, ice rink.
Other people may think you’re mad, waking up at the most appalling early hour to get the kids to dawn training sessions, sometimes pulling them out of school to attend interstate competitions to pursue distant dreams that can all too easily come crashing down through injury or other dramas.
But that’s the story of much in life, isn’t it? There are never any guarantees.
Often it is not the end result that actually brings the real reward. It’s great when the kids pick up a medal, trophy, title or spot on the podium. It is the journey that counts most. We all learn by the life we live. If we put in enormous effort and achieve results, we will take this with us into our careers and how we conduct our personal lives, how we learn to cope with failure or adverse circumstances, stress and anxiety, and how we deal with competition – fair and unfair.
A lot of people talk about the importance of resilience. Sport can help a lot with that. The ability to pick yourself up and keep going after a fall, to take criticism and make corrections, to persist when the going is tough and to keep striving for excellence, to be part of a team and to deal with physical pain and injury – these are valuable life lessons from childhood sport.
There are times when one wonders whether it’s all worth it, especially when it’s a bleak, cold morning and everyone wants to just pull up the covers and go back to sleep. But we pull ourselves together and press on. And when the kids do something pretty special and are grinning from ear to ear because they know they have excelled, then you know that it’s pretty worthwhile.
Still for us – with this year’s competitions over – it’ll be nice to have a few sleep-ins over the Christmas break.