Here is a question for all parents of school-aged children. How many of you have very busy and hectic weeks? You can’t see me, but my hand is raised. Another question, how much of that is related to all of the chasing that you do for your child/children’s youth sports? My hand is still raised. So with all of the running and time managing and juggling between your work and home life to make this happen, isn’t it logical to ask, “Is it worth it?” I think the resounding answer to that question is “yes.” But what makes all of this time, effort and stress worth it in the long run? Because let’s face it, our children will not be professional athletes. So what makes this all worthwhile in the end?
Here are a few reasons why getting your child involved in youth sports can help them their whole life.
¦ It sets your child on a path for an active lifestyle. Youth sports provide your child with needed physical activity. So finding an activity that your child enjoys is great way to send them on a healthy path for the rest of their life.
¦ Promotes disciplined behavior and respect. All sports require practice and preparation to succeed. This is no different than anything else. Academics require you to study. The workforce requires you to be prepared. This is re-enforced in youth sports. They also promote respect for authority figures such as coaches and referees.
¦ Helps to put winning into perspective. Everyone enjoys winning. This is a touchy subject within youth sports because there can be polarizing views among different thought processes. However, the value here is that within all areas life there are adverse situations. Knowing how to prepare to succeed, but constructively deal with failure or losing is a very important life skill. Also wrapped in to this equation is the ideal of working as a team to succeed and acknowledging shared accountability in failure. These skills are essential to a balanced life.
At the Greater Marinette YMCA, we have two competitive teams that compete against other YMCAs through the state of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, the M&M Stingrays Swim Team and the M&M Gliders Gymnastics Team. These teams offer varied levels of competition for kids from age 5 all the way until age 18. In addition to that, we offer Youth Basketball and Youth Flag Football leagues in-house. The core values of the YMCA are engrained into all of our programs, including our team sports.
Our swim team offers three different levels of practice for our swimmers. Bronze for beginner swimmers, Silver for intermediate swimmers and Gold for advanced swimmers. Each group practices at their own time and does their own workout. No matter what level the swimmer is in, head coach Lenny Sipple is looking for the same things.
“I want kids that are willing to learn and willing to take challenges. They need to give effort and trust the coach and not get upset over mistakes that they make, but fix them.” Sipple said it’s not the individual success of a swimmer that makes him proudest as a coach. “I’m most proud of the swimmers that work hard every day. They do their job at all times and they smile after all races whether they win or lose.”
Parents also appreciate the benefits of team sports.
Tonya Barker is the mother of three M&M Stingrays. Her daughter Mady is a sixth grader and has been on the team for five years. Since that time her fourth-grade daughter Ella and second-grade son Oliver have also joined the team. Tonya has seen benefits and positive change for all of her children. “I love it mostly because it’s the best work out that they can get. It’s a team sport, but they can also set their own personal goals and compete against themselves. It is very challenging for them and it is a great way to get in shape for other sports. Ella is a diabetic and swimming is great cardio for her and it is good for blood sugar control.”
Our M&M Gliders Girls Gymnastics Team is a lot like swim team. The girls need to have certain skills to be invited onto team and can move up to higher levels once more advance skills are accomplished. Gymnastics is a highly self-driven sport. You have to show up to practice, be dedicated and put in the work to become better. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do.
Tana Moore is the mother of Kiley Moore, who has been on the Gliders team for 6 years. “Dedication to gymnastics has helped Kiley with school on helping her drive toward success and achievement. Kiley has grown from looking up to higher level gymnasts (Sophie, Jill and Meg) to being one who is looked up to. She has learned that as she gets older, someone younger is watching and learning,” Tana said.
So aside from the physical benefits of being active, you are forming bonds with other athletes younger than you and setting good examples and becoming role models. Those are healthy keys for life.
Another gymnastics parent, Ann Shallow explains she made the commitment for her daughter Rylie for a couple of reasons. “First, Rylie has truly become part of the team. She looks forward to practices and works hard at improving her skills. Second, I feel that the coaches really are amazing. They really want the girls to have fun and excel. I continue to be impressed by their commitment to the girls and the entire gymnastics program and it is obvious they enjoy what they do.”
Both the swim and gymnastics coaches are former swimmers and gymnasts themselves. So history shows, starting a healthy sports career early on, not only benefits you as a child, but you can pay it forward as an adult by teaching young ones and carrying out your passion.
Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t only consist of exercise and eating healthy. All around health also comes from within, your daily activities, choices and conversations. Health starts in your mind and grows your spirit. Youth sports truly promote a better wellbeing for all. No child is too young to learn the basic fundamentals of a sport or learn the hidden life lessons such as teamwork, discipline and dedication. Consider joining a sport today. Check out a program guide on www.mmymca.org.
 Allyson Bickel, community engagement, and Joe Plautz, YMCA Program Director, can be reached at the Great Marinette-Menominee YMCA at 906-863-9983 or www.mmymca.org.