It’s difficult to look at the culture of The West today without arriving at the sentiment that traditional masculine values are under serious review. For fathers of sons, the challenge of teaching them to embrace these important cultural changes while still holding on to those masculine values that are worthy of preserving falls to us. Sports gives us the opportunity to grow as individuals and to to pass these important values on to our sons. While the benefits of leadership, teamwork and dedication are obvious, the values of overcoming failure, expressing aggression appropriately and taking chances are equally important.
The Importance of Failure
Ernie Banks, a baseball hero thought by many to be one of history’s greatest, once said, “The only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.” Sports are an incredible opportunity to experience a high volume of failure, in a low risk setting. An environment where the stakes are low, yet feel all important, is the perfect environment to develop personal resilience. The lesson that it’s possible to try as hard as you can, and yet lose, is an important one that inspires young men to continue to refine their skills and too act with integrity despite the consequences. Sporting families know that the heart of a champion is forged in defeat.
Aggression in the Proper Place
Aggression is one of the most misunderstood masculine characteristics. Often unfairly associated with violence, aggression is simply passion in the face of adversity. It is the act of calling on the will with incredible energy to accomplish something great. Sports are one of the only culturally acceptable pursuits where young men learn to control their aggression and to express it positively. In business or in sports, a little aggression can give you the edge you need to succeed.
Gambling as a Virtue
We are all familiar with gambling as a vice but being willing to risk something in order to achieve something greater can be a virtue as well. Any time that you’re putting yourself in a new situation, it’s a gamble. You could get hurt or embarrassed, or you could learn something exciting and grow as a person. Any time that you fight for a raise or prepare a presentation at work, it’s a gamble. Your boss might think your idea is terrible, or they might wish they called on your creativity a long time ago. Sometimes the risk is worth the reward. Sports are an excellent way to develop our ability to take measured risks in the face of difficult odds. A great way to learn your personal tolerance for risk is to bet on football, basketball, or other sports. Whether you are learning about risk as a player or as a fan, sports can teach us the importance of taking chances.
Sports has been a transformational force in the lives of many young men. As our culture continues to evolve, sports are one of the few safe venues where young men can learn the importance of traditional masculine values, lessons that will inform and advance them in life, in an atmosphere of discipline and partnership. Perhaps most importantly, sports provide a context in which mentors can guide the next generation in developing those important values that make us into better men.