Youth and interscholastic coaches are tasked with many challenges, including teaching kids how to develop basic sport skills and play together as a team. These on-field sport skills, however, are just a part of the bigger picture relating to coach duties, as teaching kids life skills through sport participation is arguably the biggest goal for youth coaches. Specifically, showing kids that the skills they are learning through sports (i.e. setting goals, working as a team, handling adversity, and developing focus) are actually athletic transferable skills, as they can be applied far beyond the playing field to the classroom, future careers, and almost every other life experience. Coaches who help kids learn life skills through sports and then apply those skills beyond sports should be applauded by parents, as it is often the athletic transferable skills kids learn playing sports that serve them well after their sports playing days are over.
Athletic transferable skills
Ask any adult today about their youth sport playing days and very often you will hear stories about how impactful youth sports were to their adult success. While they may not explicitly use the term “athletic transferable skills,” they will talk about how playing on a team and working together helped them develop things like confidence, motivation, and resiliency — traits and skills that still help them today. Athletic transferable skills often go overlooked because they are so much a part of the everyday experience for athletes that they don’t think about them, or in other cases young athletes simply assume that all kids (including those not playing sports) are learning the same skills. The reality, however, is quite different as young athletes are learning invaluable life skills through sports, and very few experiences other than sport participation provide for such enormous life skill development growth as sports provide.
So what are examples of athletic transferable skills? Using a basic definition of skills learned through sports that can be applied to non-sport life experiences and the list can be quite extensive, including the following examples:
- Goal setting. Kids regularly set individual and team goals in sports.
- Communication skills. Communicating and resolving conflicts are regular occurrences in sports.
- Focus. Learning how to focus on the job and ignore distractions is big for sport success.
- Motivation. Pursuing goals and developing motivation are key components to reaching one’s potential.
- Teamwork. Learning how to get along with teammates is a daily experience for athletes.
- Resiliency. Dealing with stress, adversity, frustration, and failure happen all the time in sports.
- Relaxing under pressure. Kids are constantly dealing with pressure in sports!
Of course there are countless additional life skills kids learn through sports, but the list above shows many important skills that coaches and parents should discuss with kids on a regular basis — as well as teach kids how to apply these skills to the other life challenges they face outside of sports.
Lifetime skills > sport participation
The odds of making it in sports are quite astronomical when you consider that only about 5% of all kids will move on from high school and play college sports, and of all the college athletes competing today less than 2% will go on to play professional sports. If a young athlete leaves behind all the life skills he or she learned while playing sports, most will leave these skills behind during their teen years! Even for the lucky few athletes who do make it to the pros, the average length of a pro sport career is just 3.5 years, providing additional support for the value of using athletic transferable skills long after an athlete’s playing days have ended.
When you think about it, the life skills your child learns through sport participation might be the best lessons he or she learns through childhood and adolescence. Sports participation allows for self-growth through personal goals, working successfully with teammates, and overcoming adversity — the same kinds of challenges we face on a daily basis as adults. Help kids make this connection, and show them how to apply athletic transferable skills to their school work, non-sport activities, friendships, and jobs. Kids who identify and use athletic transferable skills become more confident people, and experience success beyond the playing field as a result of what they learn through sport competition.