What is it about sports? Why do we love them so much? Is it because of the adrenaline? The rush of enjoyment and pride when we win? Is it because we learn things about ourselves and other people? Is it because we learn new skills and get some exercise? Or is it simply for the love of the game? I’m asking this because today I am hurting. Physically aching. All over. I am covered in bruises, can hardly walk, it hurts to bend my elbow, my shins look like someone painted them purple, and my joints crack and creak every time I try to move. Why do I feel like this today? Because I went to training last night, and I worked hard. Why do I do this to myself? Because I love it. Let me repeat that. I LOVE it. All of the other reasons that people play sports apply as well, but my main reason is because I love it.
I originally started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because my girls were training. My husband and I started them in Jiu-Jitsu so they could learn to protect themselves. As it turns out, they ended up loving it and are getting really good at it. My children were my inspiration to start training. They absolutely love going to their training sessions and competitions. They love going to class and seeing all their friends. They have more friends at Jiu-Jitsu than they do at school. And they will be life-long friends. These kids have been growing up together, having victories and losses together, and have become a very close-knit group of wonderful kids. I love those other kids as if they were my own. The other parents feel the same way. We are a family. There are even some “mat babies,” as we call them. These are the younger siblings that have literally grown up on those mats right next to their older siblings who are training.
I have had three of those “mat babies.” When we first started going to the dojo, we had our oldest two girls start together. Our third daughter was watching from the sidelines. As soon as she turned three, she started training as well. Our first son was just a few months old when the girls first started. Those were our first two mat babies.
I started training about two years ago. Just a few months after I started training, I found out I was pregnant with my fifth baby. My doctor approved me to continue training, so I did until I was about 30 weeks pregnant. I probably would have continued longer, but I have huge babies and, by this time, I couldn’t really bend around my belly anymore. I think I was also freaking some of the guys out. They could feel the baby kick and they weren’t sure what to do with that situation! This baby was my third mat baby. He was at the dojo before he was a week old. I went back to training a few weeks after he was born, and he has been on those mats ever since. Between my girls and I, we are at the dojo six days a week. And we all love it.
I love watching my girls train and compete. I love to see how they respond to adversity and to success. I love seeing all the smiles when they are having a good day and things are “clicking” with them. I can’t say I love it when they end up in tears of frustration because they can’t figure something out or because they lost a match, but I do know that those times are a necessity. They learn way more during those rough training sessions than they do during the good ones. They have amazing coaches who help them through the rough patches and show how it can be used to improve. My favorite part of watching them is when the light bulb comes on and you can see it in their eyes and on their face. That is one of the most rewarding moments for everyone involved.
I love what sports can teach kids. If done properly, sports can teach children how to work hard, play fair, win and lose gracefully, and have respect for other people. In my opinion, success in sports is based on attitude. Yes, you can be a good athlete and be arrogant, but no one is going to like you. I don’t think that is success. If you can’t be a decent human being while playing your sport, I don’t think you’ve succeeded in anything. I think that is the highest form of failure. Your team won’t even want to be around you if you don’t respect other people. The best type of success is succeeding while cheering for someone else to succeed. We always teach our kids to go out at competitions, fight as hard as possible, and shake hands with the other kid, the official, and the other coach afterward (win or lose), then start cheering for your teammate who is fighting next. All of the kids at our dojo do such a good job of supporting each other and cheering each other on. It is so fun to watch this group. They are growing right before our eyes. And I like what I see. Respect is a huge priority in our dojo, and I love watching it play out at tournaments and at home.
I come home from training sore and beat up every night I train. My husband always says, “You pay for this.” And he’s right. I do pay for the training, but I think it is giving me more than just Jiu-Jitsu training. It is giving me a second family. It is helping my husband and I reinforce what we teach our children at home about respect, honesty, and decency. It is giving my children friends that they will have through their adult life. It is teaching all of us to work just a little harder every time we train. It is teaching all of us things that we can apply to our daily lives. It is teaching us to be dedicated to the sport and the team. It is teaching us to rely on our teammates and to also be there when our teammates need to rely on us.
Sports are more than just about playing a game and burning some energy. Sports are a way for children and adults to learn how to be productive members of society. Kids don’t always have the best role models these days, but a good coach can go a long way in helping that problem. Sports can teach many things that some children won’t learn anywhere else. Sports are a needed thing for children. They need the structure, the rules, the discipline, the dedication, and the comradery (among other things) that sports can teach them. Sometimes it’s the only family they have. Every child should be involved in a sport if at all possible.
So, I will ask the question again. What is it about sports? Why do we love them so much? I hope it is easy to see why I love sports. I hope it is easy to see why I have my children in sports. I love how sports can shape a person and how they teach so many valuable lessons. I love the sports that I participate in. Yes, I said sports. Plural. Why?? Because I love it. I will repeat that again. Because I LOVE it.