8 Lessons sports can teach you about life

Watching soccer.

He seems in a trance, hunched over in his chair, body tense and eyes trained on the television screen.

It is the championship game and his favorite team is playing.

Only a minute left and the outcome hangs in the balance.

He inches forward to the edge of his chair, hands clenched and gaze fastened on the screen.

At this crucial moment his wife appears in the doorway to ask:

“Honey, how do you like my new dress?”

Need we continue?

For many, sports appeal to the itch for excitement and suspense.

They give the thrill of being a winner, either directly or by way of association.

They may aid in forgetting troubles, at least temporarily.

They may help us stay in shape, or perhaps, more correctly, help us get out of the shape we are in.

Of course, not everyone is interested in sports.

However, everyone can learn something from them.

What principles can sports teach persons not particularly interested in them about life?

1. Having a goal in life is to our advantage

All sports have certain goals or objectives.

As examples, in baseball the participants are trying to make runs, in track to cover a certain distance as quickly as possible, and in basketball to shoot baskets.

Without having particular goals and trying to achieve them, what would be the point?

Likewise, life without goals is pointless, goes nowhere.

Be sure, therefore, that you have goals, worthwhile ones, to guide your use of time and energy.

2. Determination brings results

Over 60,000 voices roared their approval.

The occasion?

The Olympics in Rome.

A black runner, Wilma Rudolph, 20 years of age, had just won her third gold medal.

She, perhaps better than any other athlete present, was living proof of the value of determination.

For about a third of her young life a paralyzed left leg had prevented her from walking, much less running.

But she was determined to overcome her handicap.

Exercises helped her, as did her mother’s advice:

“Do your very best, and above all, never give up.”

Wilma never did, and her determination paid off.

When faced with setbacks or when despondent because of your own inadequacies, do you drop out of life’s race, or do you remain determined to reach your goal?

Think how much better the world would be if, instead of being resigned to defeat, couples would remain determined to make their marriage a success, parents would remain determined to rear their children properly, and each of us would remain determined to promote peace.

3. It goes well with those who obey the rules

A newspaper writer described sports as “the best means yet devised for teaching human beings to obey rules even when winning is very important.”

Of a truth, all types of sports have rules.

If a player or his team does not obey them, penalties are imposed.

In ice hockey, for example, a player may have to spend time in the penalty box.

It could mean defeat.

All of us want to be winners in life.

Ignoring the rules of society in dealing with others could turn would-be winners into sure losers.

Law enforcement agencies might penalize the trespasser, perhaps even imprisoning him in something more confining than just a penalty box.

4. Good conduct promotes self-respect 

Willye White, an American broad jumper, felt that her chief rival had been unfairly eliminated from competition at the national championships.

In a fine example of sports like conduct, she appealed to the officials and succeeded in having the girl reinstated.

The result?

Her rival beat her and White lost the championship.

Afterward she said: 

I wanted to win just as badly as anyone else, but what would I have gained if I had won [unfairly]?”

A student who cheats on his exams, a businessman who files dishonest tax returns, or a person who builds a reputation behind a mask of hypocrisy is ignoring the principles of fair play.

While cheating others, he robs himself of self-respect and thereby cheats himself most of all.

5. Self control leads to success

Björn Borg, tennis champion, is noted for his icy self-control.

He explains that self-control is a must to ensure proper concentration.

And as any athlete knows, the briefest lapse in concentration can cost him the game.

But it is a lesson Borg admits he had to learn.

As a youngster, he behaved badly.

His club suspended him, and his mother locked his racket in the closet for five months.

He now says:

Since the day I came back from that suspension, no matter what happened, I behaved on the court.”

Self-control will enable us to concentrate on the really important tasks of life, not letting ourselves be needlessly sidetracked.

We will not waste our time and energy and abilities on foolish pursuits or bad habits.

6. Endurance pays off

Sports often require great physical endurance.

Of speed skating, for example, five-time Olympic gold medalist Eric Heiden said:

You think you’d give your life to be able to stand up. Your back is killing you so much you’d do anything to get out of that crouch.”

Are you willing to endure in order to reach worthwhile goals in life?

Young people may have to forgo certain comforts and freedoms in order to get a good education.

A person living according good principles may have to endure abuse from others.

7. Cooperation will be rewarded 

Team sports stress cooperation.

Red “Galloping Ghost” Grange, former American football star, recalls that he was always embarrassed when people praised him.

He said:

You wish people could understand that it takes eleven men to make a football team.”

The same principle holds true in other areas of life.

Is it not the marriage mate who cooperates for the common good rather than competing with his or her partner for personal advantage, who gains love and respect?

8. Balance is the key to victory

Sports, such as gymnastics, teach us the need for balance.

It should be remembered, however, that sports can also do us a disservice.

They can make us too competitive, determined to win at any cost.

The more violent contact sports can brutalize the participants.

It would also be unwise to devote excessive time or energy to sports.

They are not the best way to learn these important lessons for life—they only illustrate the principles.