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Lessons in Sports: From the Athletes’ Perspectives

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| March 29, 2022

A collection of five narratives about sports, some of the life lessons that the athlete writers learned, and how we can apply those teachings to our own lives.

The arena of sports is one of life’s greatest classrooms. We know athletics can be hugely beneficial for kids in teaching them teamwork, selflessness, hard work, dedication, communication skills and more. 

And it’s not just in youth. Sports continue to teach lessons as long as we play them.

At The Doe, we share anonymous and verified narratives from people of all walks of life about their experiences. That includes a number of athletes who reveal some of the good and bad parts about playing (and working in) sports at any level.

It’s a great time for sports in America and around the world. March Madness tips off, the Winter Olympics are just barely in the rearview mirror and the Qatar World Cup is later this year. So we thought it’d be a good time to discuss sports and athletics with a wider lens.

In this Between The Lines blog post, we’re taking a look at five anonymous narratives that deal with sports and some of the life lessons that the writers and athletes took away from their experiences, along with how some of those experiences can be applied to real-life situations.

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Lessons in Courage

One of the loudest lessons we learn in sports is courage: bravery in the face of fear—fear of failure, fear of others bigger or stronger than you, fear of overcoming some kind of obstacle or challenge before you. Many of our Game On sports-themed narratives deal with lessons in bravery.

In “The Lessons I Learned From Sports May Have Saved My Life,” a writer details how watching gymnastics gave her the courage to face an awful illness that kept her bedridden. Watching top-flight athletes fight through physical ailments gave her the determination she needed to learn to walk again and to reclaim her life. An obstacle that once seemed insurmountable became achievable. 

In “Getting Cut by a Sports Team: MLB, Understanding Failure and Me,” a baseball player learned a lot about himself and the courage it takes to fail and to keep going anyway.

These stories reveal that courage comes in myriad forms and that our lives can be enriched and improved upon by summoning the bravery required to attack an obstacle in our lives. Taking a leap can be tough; there’s no doubt about that. Sports teach us how to take the leap and land safely so that when a situation in our daily lives requires some form of confidence and bravery, we’re there to handle it.

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Lessons in Teamwork and Leadership

Many parents sign their kids up for sports so they can be part of a team. You learn a lot of life skills being on a team: communication, selflessness, empathy and leadership. These traits are vital to being a contributing member of society, and the sports-team experience is a breeding ground for many of these lessons.

Teammates can be there for you on and off the field (or court, or pool). In one of our Game On anonymous narratives, a collegiate swimmer struggling with mental health issues found love and support in her college swim team. For too long, this writer bottled up her pain inside. The camaraderie of a team gave her an avenue toward opening up and turning to others for help, and as a result, her teammates were able to practice empathy and support tactics. Check out “How I Learned to Cope With Mental Illness as a Division I Swimmer.”

In “Swim Like a Girl: How Coaching Helped Me Grow,” a male coach of an all-female swim team learned valuable leadership skills in the course of his experience. The coach had long retired from competing himself, but the lessons continued after his swimming career was over. He learned new skills, like how to bring the best out of people, how to inspire and how to foster a sense of camaraderie.

Lessons in teamwork are lifelong. Many of us are applying skills we learned on sports teams to our work teams now: listening to others’ ideas, having empathy for someone who’s in a different situation than you and the importance of celebrating others’ achievements. It all applies to personal and professional lives outside of sports.

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Lessons in Perseverance and Failure

Hard work. Determination. Perseverance. These qualities are some of the most important points of emphasis in sports. Many of our most beloved sports movies and stories feature characters persevering through difficult challenges to achieve their goal. We love when an athlete stands on the mountaintop, with all of their work and sacrifice piled below them.

Many of our Game On narratives talk about the importance of sticking with it.

In “Figure Skating Made Me Who I Am—But It Isn’t All I’m Going to Be,” the writer says that there is no greater feeling than finally seeing the rewards of hard work and perseverance. She learned that putting in the work would cause the results to follow. 

It’s not just in individual sports, like in the above narrative. In “Swim Like a Girl: How Coaching Helped Me Grow,” the writer and coach was amazed by the swimmers’ commitment, dedication and team bonding. It taught him the importance of fostering an environment where the athletes want to work hard and want to grow together beside their teammates.

These narratives reveal the many ways that lessons about working hard and persevering show up in sports. On the one hand, there’s working hard at an individual sport, perfecting a routine, sacrificing things in your personal life to achieve a singular goal. On the other hand, there’s the story about working hard on behalf of others, as part of a team, and how instilling a desire to always be there for others is a beneficial trait to carry with you later in life.

Sometimes, all your hard work doesn’t pay off. And that’s OK, too. In this narrative, “Getting Cut by a Sports Team: MLB, Understanding Failure and Me,” the writer learned that all you can do in the wake of failure is just keep going. You’ll be stronger for it.

Compiling all three of these narratives and the many takeaways involved, we see that there is no downside to working hard and persevering in pursuit of something. If you succeed, there’s no greater feeling. If you fail, that’s only more reason to keep going, but this time as a stronger and better person.

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Thank You, Sports

Sports teach us a ton about life. Their tentacles extend far and wide in our society. Some of the lessons are hard to come by; they can be challenging, painful and revealing. But more often than not, they’re worth it in the end.

For more articles like this one where we break down anonymous narratives and explore civil discourse, subscribe to our blog.

For more anonymous narratives from tons of different perspectives in sports and athletics, check out our Game On theme here.

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