Coaching Kids Life Skills Through Martial Arts Skills

Youth sports is intended to have many practical applications. The strongest expectation from youth sports is the ability to learn not only the skills necessary to succeed in play, but also critical life skills that apply to the life outside of the sport. Some of these life skills are; leadership, manners, eq, decision making, ability to digest information, collaboration, communication, etc. While these are skills that parent’s assume their children will acquire when they enroll their children in sports, science has proven that not to be the case.

In fact, coaching for the sake of becoming a better athlete looks different than coaching for the sake of becoming a person with strong life skills. Studies, led by Dr. Daniel Gold have shown that athletes who grew up in an environment where the coach emphasized the acquisition of the life skills along with the acquisition of technical skills required in the sport were the only athletes who actually developed the ability to apply the lessons from their sport to their life outside of the sport.

This is an insightful break through. The valuable life skills are not ACQUIRED merely through the practice of sport. They are intentionally DEVELOPED through the curriculum, and lesson plans designed by the coach. Dr. Shimizu and Dr. Shibamoto have also been leading scholars in the field of applied sports psychology. Some of their research has reinforced the research by Dr. Gold.

There is one more key critical factor in understanding the value of coaching sports skills through life skills. Studies have found that athletes coached in life skills perform better than athletes who have only been coached in their athletic skills. While there is no certainty or little value in learning practical life skills through the practice and learning of sport, there is great value in being coached by someone who truly embraces the idea of coaching life skills through the means of sport. Therefore, it’s essential that as parents we seek out sports clubs and teams that emphasize these life skills in their lessons above anything else and remember that the practical skills we hope our children to acquire through sport only happens where there exists a conscious minded program that emphasizes these things.

Eliot Kelly

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