The AFL season is around the corner and, having lived and breathed football for nearly 25 years, I can feel the anticipation in the air around Melbourne.
The pre-season competition has begun, and talk in the cafes is once again focused around how well the team will go.
Being married to an ex-professional AFL player and current professional AFL coach, I am very aware of the highs and lows of sport. There is great sacrifice on the part of many involved to play and compete at this level.
And yes, sometimes you do need to remind yourself that it is 'only a game'.
However, what I have not only witnessed and experienced myself is that sport is more than a game.
Have you ever really considered what you learned when you played sport? As a child, you more than likely participated in physical education (PE) classes. In those classes, you began to learn about the importance of exercise for your health as well as how to play a game. Your teachers may have taught you about sportsmanship and playing by the rules.
In the United States, where I was born and raised, sport was and is still a huge part of the school system. Attendance at high school and college games is a real aspect of 'school life', so much so that every year many schools host a homecoming game/weekend where the alma mater (past graduates) come back to the school in support of the school and football team. School pride is on hand and there is a real sense of community watching the football game together.
You may not enjoy playing sport yourself or like the idea of exercising but you can still be a part of something that contributes to feelings of belonging. This is really no different to any team that you may support now as an adult. It could be an NRL team, an AFL club, a soccer team, the local rugby union team or cricket team.
What I have learned from years of participating in sport is that many of life's greatest lessons can be learned through sport -- and you don't have to be a good athlete in order to learn these lessons.
Sport taught me about discipline. Committing to training, being prepared, not quitting, and making sacrifices are all part of playing sport.
Sport teaches you perseverance. In order to become better at your 'craft' or sport, you need to practice. It doesn't happen overnight. Being on a team or in an individual sport requires training. In order to stay fit you need to keep practicing, training, running, going to the gym, etc...
Team sport encourages communication. The stronger your communication skills the more 'in-sync' the team. You are working for a common goal and the power of your voice cannot be underestimated. Your voice can be used to lead your teammates and help give support, encouragement and guidance on the field and off the field. The lessons learned from effectively communicating on the field could easily be translated to the office or your home life.
Determination can also be considered to be desire -- the desire to try to the best of your ability (regardless of athletic ability) in a given situation. You need to be determined in sport not to give up, to understand that even if you come up against a stronger or more skilful opponent that it is up to you to try your best as no one else can do it for you.
Sport teaches you how to work with others and how to overcome differences in opinions to achieve a common goal. It may not necessarily always equate to a win on the scoreboard, but it is an invaluable life lesson. All of us benefit from understanding that teamwork, in a team, a company or a family, is an invaluable skill to learn. Considering others, working together for a common goal, and stepping away from a 'me' versus 'you' mentality is a better equation for success and happiness.
Not everyone is born to be a leader or desires to be one, but you can understand qualities of effective leadership from sport. If you observe an effective team captain or coach they usually have earned the respect of those around them. They have set the example in terms of their actions and words, they have an ability to listen, they are able to deliver a message that may be hard without making it personal, and they are effective communicators.
There is tremendous growth in understanding that you will not always win. Sport is very much like life -- you will have highs and lows -- but learning to get back up and try again is invaluable. The scoreboard does not define failure... the only way that you actually 'fail' is if you quit or give up.
Sport will always throw out some setbacks. You may get injured in training or a game and require some time away from the game or activity that you love. But you learn to 'ride that wave' and take steps to get yourself back on track.
Learning to play by the rules with honesty and integrity is an invaluable life lesson. Being gracious in winning as well as defeat is always a trait of a true champion.
Incredible bonds and friendships are made through sport. You train and play together, riding the highs and lows through blood, sweat and tears and understand the importance of camaraderie and friendships.
Sport teaches you mental resilience. You need to be able to bounce back, find balance, enjoy yourself, celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes.
Sport teaches you the importance of being healthy in mind, body and spirit. To be at your optimum you need to eat the right foods, drink enough water, exercise, get enough sleep, relax, and quiet the mind.
Read more from Tami Roos at www.theroossynergy.com.au or on Facebook here.