Tough It Out Kiddo

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.

References

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.

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5 Responses to Tough It Out Kiddo

  1. jambowoods says:

    I think sport can offer a variety of benefits, with the most obvious being increased physical health. You touched on a very important, and somewhat abstract quality that sport participation can encourage, that of resiliency and perseverance. These are attributes that are very difficult to develop, and can have a long lasting positive impact on someone’s life.

    Learning from a defeat, and coming back stronger is a skill that can carry over into many other aspects of one’s life. You mentioned how sport helped you cope with life setbacks, and I think you hit the nail on the head with that statement. Everyone has to deal with adversity in their life, and sports offer a great chance to gain experience in dealing with situations that can be relevant in the real world.

    Although sport itself can offer many life lessons and opportunity for youth asset development, I think coaches also play an important role here. Coaches can make a huge difference in fostering positive development in athletes. Their behaviour and outlook, can have both a positive and negative effect on athletes. I’ve had a lot of great coaches growing up, however, I’ve also had a lot of really awful coaches. These bad apples can teach athletes several bad habits. For example, one of my hockey coaches would literally throw a tantrum every time our team would lose. This is a poor role model for youth, and I was lucky to have other coaches that made a more positive impression on me.

    You touched on a lot of great things in this post, and I think you’re right that playing sports is a wonderful opportunity to learn many valuable lessons.

    Great article.

    James

  2. Heath R says:

    I really like this blog Darrion. I liked how you used your personal life to talk about how resilient you were with sports. I thought the way you explained how sports can basically be a coping mechanism was really well done. The great thing about sports is that it can offer many opportunities for children to deal with those different situations. I agree completely that sports is used to set goals and for children to achieve those goals. If you look at all the professional athletes in the world they all had to overcome some sort of difficulty. What separates those athletes from the rest of us is that they showed resiliency towards their sport.

    I thought the points you made in this blog were awesome.

    Thanks,
    Heath

  3. Josh McInnis says:

    I can relate to this post, specifically on learning qualities such as self-control, patience, and sport as being an outlet. I am a strong believer that sport influenced my life in many aspects but it was also a good teaching method for me to knowing my limitations and boundaries.

  4. bessteague93 says:

    Great post Darrion! I have never wrestled or done judo but I have done all kinds of other sports, my main one was ski racing were I faced a lot of failures before I ever found success. In ski racing you can be racing against up to 140 girls so it’s pretty easy to not place in the higher rankings and feel like a failure. It took me four years to finally place in the top 3 of a race in Atlantic Canada and I never placed when I moved on to race in FIS were placing is considered the top 10. I saw a lot of girls end their careers because they couldn’t let go of the idea the doing well meant placing. In the ski racing world, if you get caught up in basing your success on placing, you will never do well. Your goal has to be improving yourself and then the results will come later. I think this type of resilience where I had to push through failure after failure has made me extremely strong person.

    – Bess T

  5. aduches1 says:

    think you did a good job on this post Darrion, your experiences with judo and wrestling are a great example of the positive influence of sports. I agree that these sports can have a positive influence on the development of assets, and I have found from my own experiences that karate can help with the development of the high expectations asset. During my several years of karate one thing that was always brought up was how we were expected to use our knowledge; we had to promise to only use our skills to defend “myself, my family, my honour, and my principles” and that misuse of the techniques we learned would have us kicked out. We were expected to learn to hold our temper like you mentioned, not to get into fights, and during sparring to be friendly and respectful. So I agree that sports like judo and karate can have a very influential role in helping to develop all of these assets.

    Andrea D

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