by Darrion S.
It is no secret there are numerous benefits associated with sports. Although there may be negative consequences picked up from years of sport, such is life where good will inherently parallel bad to an extent. Throughout nine years of wrestling I have put myself through unhealthy dieting to make weight classes, pushed myself in practices that would lead me to puking, and have accumulated multiple injuries all over my body. A wrestling match is a physical competition between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. Basically, I get on the mat and I either kick butt or get my butt kicked. Wrestling represents one of the oldest forms of combat, relying on discipline, courage, stamina and strength. To be a successful competitor, you have to devote so much time and effort into the sport that it becomes a lifestyle. I will deviate from wrestling examples to establish that sport in itself is what can inspire resilience in youth; however, from personal experience there is nothing quite as satisfying as throwing a person off their feet after persevering through combat training.
White and Bennie (2015) state that sport presents an opportunity for young people to experience the joys of success and cope with setbacks to develop resilient behaviours. I am a firm believer of sport being a positive influence within the lives of youth throughout all stages of childhood and adolescence. Being part of extracurricular activities such as judo and wrestling have been positive influences throughout my childhood and I continue to reap physical and mental benefits from participating in amateur sport. I contribute most of my resiliency throughout life’s’ hardships to sport as it has fostered my ambition, attitude and focus.
My mother put me into sports because of a history with anger management issues in the family; however, since I began my identity in sport as a judoka, I have never experienced issues with a lack of emotional restraint. Growing up, there were times I wanted to quit my sport, yet I stayed because I wanted to enjoy my community of a teammates while building on skills to win more competitions. I have a competitive personality and I have often referenced sport as my contribution to coping skills. If I cannot win a situation out of my control, I aspire to control a match that I will win. White and Bennie’s (2015) study demonstrated that coaches and athletes believed young people developed resilient behaviors during gymnastics training and competition; By creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at gymnastics sports clubs, training became a distraction from outside stress. Although I may not have realized it at the time, there were instances growing up where I practiced mindfulness while dealing with frustrating situations because I was taught respect and patience through judo training.
Developmental assets forged through training in sports results in various coping skills for youth to carry with them outside of the gym. As an athlete, I am constantly setting goals which is a useful strategy for increasing motivation and persistence when encountering challenging situations in sport. Developmental assets such as responsibility, integrity, and personal power are formed when a goal is worked for and met. In a study done by Lipowski, Lipowska, Magdalena, and Krokosz (2016) analyzed factors protecting youth from risky behavior. It was found that adolescent athletes on a competitive basis showed significantly higher levels of resiliency than their non-athletic peers. While dealing with large stressors in my life, I turn to exercise as an outlet or distraction; the stress of competing and training are familiar and comfortable as I have spent most of my life coping with them already. If we consider a young athlete as a person being exposed to a vast number of stressors (training-related effort, demand for success, expectations of spectators, parents, coach) on a daily basis, then the ability to respond flexibly to difficult situations and to perceive them as challenges to be solved in a task-oriented manner is somehow intrinsic to the life of every athlete.
Sports can be seen as a snapshot of one’s discipline and willingness to dedicate themselves to something over an extended period of time. Sports have taught me to be resilient; it continually re-programs the mind to work through physical and mental pain and exhaustion. It forces youth to set goals and reach them, making failure the learning curve for success; they provide experiences where youth have to be able to handle last minute negativity and self-doubts. My influential sport was judo and is now wrestling; they have helped holistically shape my character and identity. You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to wrestle your own match, rather than let your opponent dictate how the match goes. Therefore, my resiliency to stay in wrestling has shown me that I am the dictator of my own my life; it has given me a breadth of challenges to overcome and learn from, allowing me to be faithful in my integrity.
Lipowski, M. Lipowska, M., Jochimek, M., & Krokosz, D. (2016). Resiliency as a Factor Protecting Youths from Risky Behaviour: Moderating Effects of Gender and Sport. European Journal of Sport Science: The Official Journal of the European College of Sport Science, 16 (2), 246-255.
40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. (n.d.). Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18
White, R. L., Bennie, A, (2015). Resilience in Youth Sport: A Qualitative Investigation of Gymnastics Coach and Athlete Perceptions. International Journal of Sports Science Coaching, 10 (2/3), 379-393.