This is a guest contribution by Suzy Lyons. Suzy is passionate about extra-curricular activities for kids. At Share The Dignity, we work with clubs and coaches to place children recovering from domestic violence in sporting, cultural, artistic and technological activities. Fleeing a violent home disrupts every part of a little life, we help them find a new passion to focus on, and a new crowd to be a part of.
Why I Believe in Activities For All
Stepping out into the big, wide world can be a scary thing. Sometimes as an adult we forget and take for granted the ability to step into a crowded room, meeting people for the first time, starting a new school or getting into a new sporting group. My son is not an introvert but during his preschool years did keep to himself quite a bit. He was incredibly social in the circle of friends that we had, but in new environments was very quiet and he didn’t mix well in groups that he didn’t know. He also just wanted to play with cars and trucks and would happily do this by himself for hours on end. If there was a car or truck he wasn’t interested in anything else. Being a social and outgoing person myself, I wanted my son to develop the confidence that he deserved and needed, something I believe is an important life skill to have. As an adult it is still sometimes hard to step out into those zones that are not comfortable, but the more we do it, it can become slightly easier each time.
I wanted to get him to try new things and explore and discover more than just one like. I wanted him to find out what else he could find enjoyable and rewarding in the big wide world and I wanted him to meet people outside of the friend and family circle. The more interactions we have with people the more we can learn and discover about other people and ourselves.
We also participate in and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle and really want this to naturally be part of our children’s lives as well. We felt that the best way to encourage this was to introduce them to a sport while they were young. My husband is not a soccer or football fan so I didn’t think I had much chance of getting my son involved in a team sport that involved a big field and a ball, but I felt that socially, mentally and physically it was important he participated in a team sport and not just an individual sport. So we went along to the local soccer try outs.
The first training session, he wanted total control of the ball himself. He wanted to be the one to always grab it when it went out and he soon realised that the game was not just about him. This was a huge tick for me and I knew he would soon see that not just on the soccer field but in the big wide world would be people wanting to join in and he would have to learn to share and work together.
One Year of Sport
A year on and I have seen him go from strength to strength because of playing sport and being involved with the team. The first and foremost thing that made me happy was seeing the enormous smile that is on his face from the start to the end. It is just the best feeling to see him so happy and thoroughly enjoying something and getting into it. When he eventually became better and knew what he was doing, I was that mum on the sidelines who thought my boy was simply the best. And he was. I was so proud of him.
I have seen his social and team building skills improve dramatically. Sport can bring such a mixed and diverse group of people together that wouldn’t necessarily socialise together. They have to learn to work together, trust each other, rely on each other and all try to achieve the best possible outcome for the team. It is fantastic to see him understand that together it might work better. Someone else might have ideas that mean a goal is scored or be standing in a better position. He has learnt about different personalities and he has made some new friends that might have surprised him. He confidently shakes hands with the opposition now, talks to them also and interacts with kids he hasn’t met before.
It has taught him about commitment and not letting his team down. Early on he didn’t want to attend one of the games. I told him that he would not be letting himself down but everyone else in his team. I explained to him that if he decided he didn’t like soccer anymore, that was okay but he had to see the season through. He had made a commitment and he had to stick with it and he could then decide if it wasn’t for him. Of course, this didn’t happen again because he was aware that participation was what he signed up for and he knew that when he turned up, he loved it.
Sports make big changes in little lives
He understands now the importance and value in exercise and being outdoors. He loves being outdoors generally but seeing his team, kicking the ball and having a joke or two in between is a great way to spend Saturday morning. Children spend so much time indoors and on computers these days that I love seeing him exhaust his energy and being happy in the sunshine. Mentally sport has so many benefits that I know as a teenager if he is having a bad day and can get out and play sport or do what he loves it can be an incredible release of anger or frustration.
I have watched him improve. This has built his confidence and he is so proud of himself for learning new skills, having to think outside the box and become better at the skills he already had. In the last game he was goal keeper and blocked 5 goals from going through. It was an amazing effort and seeing his smile as his team mates gave him a pat on the back was a great moment. These boys are only 8 years old so I can see that long term and moving forward in his teenage years that this sense of sportsmanship will be incredibly beneficial to him.
Sport and being involved brings huge benefits for children and I know that these times he has, he will remember them and appreciate how good they were. He has grown as a person and it has been wonderful to watch him flourish mentally and physically. I believe that the benefits with carry on through his life far beyond the soccer field.
Share The Dignity helps kids recovering from domestic violence to experience the self confidence and togetherness of being part of a sporting or social team. The Activities4All Free Activities For Kids Program relies on parents like you to talk to your coaches and clubs about offering one free place in lessons. Swimming, soccer, coding, art, dance…. All activities are welcome and valuable for little ones who have been through it all and survived. Please, speak to your coach, teacher or club and ask if one more little person could be a part of the team. Get in touch to find out more.