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Team Sports Teach Life Lessons

Belarus competes in the synchronized swimming team final at the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow, Britain. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)
Belarus competes in the synchronized swimming team final at the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow, Britain. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)
Team Sports Teach Life Lessons
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

On a bright summer morning, many young swimmers gather at a local swimming pool in the state of Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.

They are members of a competitive summer swim team. As they practice their strokes and cut seconds off of their times, they are getting lots of physical exercise and vitamin D from the sun.

However, the benefits of belonging to a sports team are not just health-related. Team sports also help to build many life skills.

The coach of the swim team is Paul Waas. He explains how swim team teaches the team members skills like discipline and focus.

"I think the discipline comes into play when you're talking about focusing on the details that your coaches are saying as it makes you faster rather than just going up and down the pool the same way you have every time. So, when you can focus on what you're doing right and what you can do better, then you’ll see the improvement. I think they see that from their peers and then it challenges them to do better themselves."

But discipline and focus are just two of the life skills that team sports can teach. There is also responsibility, goal-setting and working within a group.

Again, here is Coach Waas.

"It’s really great! It’s so fun to watch from year to year. I've had kids who as 7-year-olds on the team could barely pay attention in practice and were only interested in who was going first. And now they’ve come back as 8-year-olds and they’ve set some goals. And now they have things that they want to achieve. They see the record board and they want their name up there.”

These life skills can help a child later in life.

An article published in the magazine Fast Company notes reasons why a company should consider employing former athletes. The writers argue that people who played sports in school are:

  • focused on goals,
  • strong communicators,
  • team players,
  • good at managing their time, and
  • resilient -- meaning they do not give up when things get difficult.

Some studies have found that team sports could be especially good for women. A series of studies by the company Ernst & Young found that 90 percent of women in so-called “C-suite” positions at several major companies had played sports.

C-suite describes a corporation's most senior executives. These positions usually begin with a “C” for "chief." Examples are chief executive officer, or CEO and chief financial officer, or CFO.

Other studies have shown that students who play sports are more likely to go to college and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. And young women who play sports are less likely to experience underage pregnancy.

Paloma is a mom with two daughters on the Maryland pool swim team. She says being on the swim team has been a great experience for her children.

“It's great exercise. And it's great discipline. And they are able to do a team sport where they have individual goals and so it balances out.”

The downside to team sports

But playing team sports is not without harm. Some sports can be hard on the body. Young athletes can suffer serious injuries that follow them into adulthood.

Coach Wass explains that swimming is different from most sports in two important ways. First, the risk of injury is less than most sports.

"You know, swimming can have some … some injuries from high repetition. But in general it’s one of the safest and healthiest sports out there.

The second difference relates to how swim teams are structured. Swimmers compete as a team but each individual swimmer races with the goal of improving their own personal time

“Swim team is interesting in that it's the individual combined with the team sport."

Paloma’s older daughter says she likes many things about swim team.

"I’m Pryia. And swim team lets me do a sport that doesn’t include a ball. But I’m also part of a team still. And so, I get to do my own thing while doing things with other people. And you also get to make a lot of friends.”

However, she says it is difficult when you beat your own team members.

“One thing that’s difficult is that you're competing against your own team members a lot. And sometimes that’s a little hard on people."

Swimming also pushes her, she says, especially if she has been “stuck in a rut,” as she describes it. This phrase is used if someone has not seen improvements in their performance for a long time.

"It [swim team] challenges me because there are times when it’s a little hard to improve and I'm kind of stuck in a rut. But eventually you do improve and it feels really good."

Team sports benefit adults too

Children are not the only ones who can benefit. Adults can also benefit from team sports.

A team sport for adults could be a recreational team offered at work or by a community group. Or it could be a group that trains together for a race or shares exercising goals at a gym.

The benefits are the same: increased confidence and self-discipline, improved health and more fun and friends. For adults, there is also the added benefit of reducing stress.

Members of the Berliner Seehunde (Berlin seals) swimming club take a bath at the lake Oranke during their traditional Christmas swimm in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 25, 2017.
Members of the Berliner Seehunde (Berlin seals) swimming club take a bath at the lake Oranke during their traditional Christmas swimm in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 25, 2017.

Adults should be sure to pick a sport that is right for them. If they haven’t played the sport for a long time, there may be a greater risk of injury.

Picking the right sport is also important for children. While all team sports can help a child, Coach Waas notes that swimming has one big advantage over other sports.

"I just think this is so fun! The sun is shining. The pool is bright blue. Who wouldn't want to be on a team like this? That’s all I can say."

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo.

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Words in This Story

swimming pool – n. a tank (as of concrete or plastic) made for swimming

stroke – n. a method of moving the arms and legs to push against the water and propel the swimmer forward

benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect

discipline – n. to train (yourself) to do something by controlling your behavior

focus – v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific

peer – n. a person who belongs to the same age group or social group as someone else

challenge – n. a difficult task or problem : something that is hard to do

pay attentionverbal phrase the act or the power of fixing the mind on something : careful listening or watching

athlete – n. a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength

recreational – adj. done for enjoyment