Posted: 09/04/2013 11:23 am to Huffington Post
I founded a volleyball program that isn't really about volleyball. Spike and Serve is about life, and how striving for excellence in sports can lead to achieving excellence in life. The skeptic asks, "Why do we need youth sports?"
Sports are Larger than Life
Sports are faster than life. A three-month season is an epic journey of victories and losses, and ultimately of growth. Through practice and play there are more teaching opportunities per minute in a sporting arena than nearly any other venue. Lessons of cooperation and communication can be celebrated during the best of times. Lessons of resilience, resetting, and regrouping are learned during struggles...If they are properly framed.
Sports are far more frightening than life. My first volleyball try-out in seventh grade brought the most fear I'd ever faced: a visceral fear that I could taste, touch, and feel. Succeed and you make the team and your payoff is playing games: a public performance where your opponents cheer your every mistake and your fans wince with pain when you fail. Parents logically look to protect their children from painful or frightening situations by avoiding them, but flight gives fear more power. By preparing in practice, facing our fears in competition, and humbly accepting both wins and losses we teach a confidence that transcends sports.
Sports are not more competitive than life. I am constantly amazed at the myriad of talents this generation of children possess. Twelve-year-olds are successfully completing volleyball skills that I learned in high school. Teenagers are approaching levels of mastery that I didn't have in my Olympic run as a twenty-eight-year-old. The bar has been raised in sports and in life. A Spike and Serve participant, fourteen-year-old Maxx, recently produced, directed, filmed, and edited our promotional video from start to finish in just a week. Megan is often our tournament director at beach volleyball championships. She runs the pools, calculating seeds and point differentials. She oversees the junior scorekeepers and referees assigning courts and match-ups. Megan is fifteen-years-old and learning leadership and communication skills that will last a lifetime.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus first noted the age-old truth that "Change is the only constant in life." Heraclitus 2.0 would say, "Change is coming faster and faster and its never going to slow down!" Generation Z is one name used for the group of children born from the late 1990s through the mid 2000s. The world that Z enters is dynamic: like sports, its quick, scary and more competitive than the one we grew up in.
The skeptic asks, "Why do we need youth sports?" Sports is the metaphorical carrot children chase that brings joy and motivation, the monster they fear yet overcome; sports builds community, team-work, empathy, and love. It teaches children to translate a negative into a positive: that the lessons learned through failure and loss can strengthen and prepare our future generations to achieve and succeed.
Kevin K. Wong
US Olympian; founder & coach, Spike and Serve Volleyball