Column: Playing sports has taught me many life lessons

Jane Rob Pannell
Oxford Stories

Many experiences have led me to believe that playing sports shapes children’s character more than anything else. Throughout my life, my fondest memories were spent at the ballpark, soccer field, basketball gym, track, and golf course.

Although most of these were great memories, there were also some bad ones. However, the good memories combined with the bad have shaped me into the young adult that I am today. 

I started playing soccer at 4 years old. I learned to be a good teammate, share, and obey the coach. I truly believe that lessons like this learned at practice, even at such a young age, will start showing at home and in the classroom. Playing sports at a young age also helps children with social skills, and hand-eye coordination. 

Throughout elementary school, I played soccer, basketball, softball, and golf, and I learned different life lessons through each of these. Since I was old for my grade, I always had to play soccer with girls one and two years older than me.

I learned to respect girls older than me, but was also taught how to be a leader in my own grade. Through softball and basketball, I put my leadership skills to the test and learned how to have patience and help teammates who are struggling.

Although I only played golf until 4th grade, I did watched my older brothers almost every weekend. I watched this sport turn them into gentlemen, teach them course etiquette and manners. I also watched my older brothers play football and basketball, and my older sister play basketball and tennis. I learned from them early on to have grit and determination. 

Once I got to junior high, all of the lessons I had learned since I was 4 started showing through my character on and off the court or the field. In 8th grade, I started on the junior high basketball team with the 9th graders, the older girls who I played soccer with my whole life.

By this time, I had started playing travel basketball and putting in tons of extra work, and it paid off. Although I started leading on the court, I also started being a leader to my fellow 8th graders who did not get much playing time that year.

During and after a hard practice, I encouraged them to not give up, and the hard work would pay off. The next year when we were the 9th graders, my team made it to the championship game. However, we lost by one point in an absolute heartbreaker. 

I was devastated that my season ended that way, but the same day, my coach asked me to move up to the high school team for the end of their season. I was more than excited to get to play more basketball.

During the first practice with the high school team, it was obvious they did not want me to be there. After going home upset every day that week, I realized that not everyone in life is going to like me. I started being extra respectful to the older girls, but also just played my game. Through this experience, I learned that I should be nice to everyone, even if they are not as nice to me. This experience also shaped me to be a better upperclassmen when my time came. 

In the 10th grade, I started playing soccer again, after a few years of taking a break. The soccer team needed a goalie, and that was my position. When I first started back, I was more than rusty. I got frustrated with myself and wanted to quit after the first day.

My parents made me stick with it, and I am so glad I did. This year, we made it to the state championship where we lost in a penalty kick shootout on a field with no lights, at night. After this season, I learned the lesson to never give up, and I decided that I would bounce back stronger next season.

I put in tons of extra work and lessons during the off season, because I was determined to win it all the next year. The next soccer season came around, and we lost in the championship again to the same team. This taught me that plans do not always work out, but gave me motivation for basketball season.

Junior year basketball season went pretty well, and lots of people expected us to win it all. Well, we once again fell short in the semi-finals of the state tournament. 

After this season, I was down on myself, because my friends who I had played soccer with since I was 4 years old were now graduating. I truly did not think that we would be able to win anything without them. My parents talked to me about this and made me realize that I only had one season left of high school sports, so I better make the most out of it. 

This put me in a good headspace, and made me want to work harder than ever before. Over the summer, I went to soccer and basketball practice mentally prepared every day. Senior soccer season finally started, with an away opener against Hartfield Academy out of Flowood, Mississippi. We ended up losing 3-0, and I was convinced again we would not do well this year. After this performance, us seniors talked to our coach and asked her for a hard conditioning practice to get everyone back on track. After this practice, the rest of the season was smooth sailing.

The end of the season arrived quickly, and we had made it to the state championship once again. This time, we were playing Hartfield who beat us 3-0 in our first game of the season. I, as well as the other seniors, were determined that we would not be getting the red trophy for the third year in a row. This game ended up being the longest soccer game in the history of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools. We went into a penalty kick shootout, and I was not going to be denied that day. After four overtimes and 22 penalty kicks, we were finally champions. 

Through this game, I learned more about myself than ever before. I feel like this game gave me the confidence that I needed before college, and made me realize that I can do anything that I put my mind to. 

Senior year basketball season came around, and there were underlying problems between the team from day one. Through this, I learned to put outside problems aside, and just play the game. Much like co-workers, teammates will not always get along, but this taught me to put differences aside and get the work done. After losing in the Overall State Championship semi-final game, my heart was shattered. Although this season was a hard one for me, I would not trade it for the world.

From the ages of 4 through 18, playing sports has taught me more life lessons than anything, by far. Although we won tons of games and tournaments, the hard losses are the ones that stick out the most to me.

Through sports, I have learned how to be a good winner, be a good loser, be a leader, have grit, have determination, have patience, and so much more. I feel like every child should have the opportunity to play a sport when they are young, and it may turn into years of life lessons.


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