Much like the admirable groups of 4-H and FFA, playing sports can teach important life-long lessons to young people. I know countless people who developed virtuous qualities on the playing field, such as self-discipline, perseverance, and overcoming difficult. The experiences learned on a court can incredibly important to a young person’s development. Similarly, important lessons can be learned on the sidelines, or from the living room couch.
You see, I’m a Chicago sports fan. Primarily, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears. And a quick look at their recent seasons shows that they haven’t exactly had game-changing results.
So, all of those memories I have of settling down onto a couch and hanging my head in shame at the most recent loss by my hometown teams…they’ve added up into some great moral fiber! I am a stronger person because of it!
Just to name a few:
- Optimism. As Cubs fans say, “There’s always next year!”
- Loyalty. If you can stick beside a losing team year after year, you can probably dole out loyalty where it really matters…like, with family, friends, and partners.
- Hope. All of those losses and dead-end seasons make the wins and milestones so much better! It is through darkness that we learn to truly appreciate the light.
- Perseverance. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
- Realism. Almost converse of optimism, this quality is the understanding that you probably won’t win against the best teams, but it’s fun to dream.
- Acceptance. Sometimes accepting what is outside of our hands can be a major turning point in our experiences as humans. Just like we must learn to hand our fate to God despite knowing things may not go our way, we must also be willing to let our dignity rest in the sometimes-incapable hands of the teams we support. And when things don’t go as well, we continue the learn the lessons listed here.
- Appreciation. It isn’t always the wins that make us love our teams. While I never go to Wrigley Field expecting a massive season-altering win, I do go expecting a great time. I go expecting to have a fantastic experience in the most beautiful baseball field in the U.S. with a crowd that’s unlike any other. I appreciate the Cubs and the Bears for many reasons, and it isn’t because of their ability (or lack thereof) to rack up the wins.
- Empathy. When another friend’s team loses, I’m more apt to say, “I understand how you feel,” than I am to say, “Nah nah nah boo boo!” Unless, of course, the team is one of the following: The Chicago White Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Green Bay Packers, or the Indianapolis Colts. (The baseball and football teams are listed respectively by decreasing amounts of hatred, if anyone was curious.)
- Toughness. My team may have lost, but I sure at heck ain’t going to let the haters make me feel inferior!
So, you see, being a sports fan has some benefits. It has other benefits, for different folks, too. I know a lot of people whose mathematical skills have developed simply because of tracking stats! That isn’t the case for me, however.
I joke and laugh about how cheering for losing teams is a character-building activity, but, at the same time, it reaffirms many of the valuable lessons I learned while conducting FFA meetings, doing volunteer work with 4-H, or running drills on a soccer field. I joked a lot recently on Twitter about being a sore losers when the Broncos beat Da Bears in sudden death overtime, but I rolled with the teasing with a good nature and smile. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and sometimes we’re playing a losing game. If that’s the case, take a page out of Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears fans’ book: smile, move on, and prepare to meet the next challenge head-on with all of the speed of Marlon Byrd and all the force of Brian Urlacher!