The Olympic Games is by far one of the most spectacular sporting events to watch. Every two years, countries from all over the world send their best athletes to compete in their chosen sport and, hopefully, bring home many medals and honors. From the opening ceremonies to the jaw-dropping wins and losses, the Olympics never fail in delivering some of the greatest sports moments of all time.
Now that my children are old enough to watch them without getting bored or antsy, the experience has become even more rewarding—not only for me, but for them. You may not realize thus, but watching the Olympics offers some big lessons in the ups and downs of life. Here are eight of those lessons:
1. Good sportsmanship always prevails. Along the lines of losing, while an athlete will sometimes cry, scream and bury his or her head after a devastating loss, they still maintain good sportsmanship by congratulating the winner. So many kids today take losing personally and look at those who beat them as adversaries. This should not be the case. Watching one athlete hug or handshake another is a prime example of what good sportsmanship is all about and how to properly and maturely handle losing in a sport or game. (photo credit)
2. Diversity is a beautiful thing. I cannot think of another forum where people from all over the world—even from smaller, lesser-known countries—get together for nonpolitical reasons. Children can see that there are people of all races, religions and beliefs and that is what makes our world so uniquely special.
3. Sports run the gamut. Most kids are familiar with more popular sports, but odds are they have never seen or heard of curling, bobsledding, synchronized swimming or water polo. The Olympics is a great way to shine the light on some lesser known sports that kids can enjoy watching for the first time. Who knows? They may even decide to try one themselves. (photo credit)
4. A lesson in the world around them. What is so nice about having so much diversity at the Olympics is that kids can learn more about people from different cultures including languages, traditions, rituals and beliefs. Learning about other parts of the world and seeing how people live is always an eye-opening experience.
5. Everyone is equal. No matter what sport a person is competing in and what country he or she is from, every athlete at the Olympics is treated the same. No one gets special treatment because they are from a larger country, no one gets a better chance of winning because of the color of their skin. The playing field is the same for everyone who competes regardless of who they are or where they are from.
6. Hard work has its rewards. If you are the mom of an avid swimmer, runner, skater or skier and they are serious about their sport and want to compete, they can see firsthand that if they keep at it, perhaps one day they can be an Olympic athlete themselves. The back-stories of the athletes is also a good way to show kids just how hard these athletes work and how committed they are to get to this point. (photo credit)
7. Hard work does not mean you will always win. All that hard work does not guarantee a medal and many athletes walk away from the Olympics empty-handed. As hard as these athletes train and practice, they are up against others who work just as hard as they do. Learning that hard work is no guarantee that you will win is one very important life lesson.
8. Anyone can do anything. Many athletes come from humble or difficult circumstances, yet that did not stop them from pursuing their dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete. Some gave up their jobs, traveled tremendous distances just to train every day or lived in a country where there was no money for them to practice in a state-of-the-art facility like other countries have. Yet, despite all of this, they found a way to accomplish their dreams through will and determination.
When the winter Olympics start tomorrow night, be sure to sit down and watch it with your children. If anything, they will enjoy watching the majesty of the opening ceremonies. There is a good chance that after that they will want to see what all of the pomp and circumstance is about and what all of these athletes will do. My kids still remember the last summer games and remind me of the swimming events that we watched endlessly on our television. Even today, two years later, my son tells me at his swim lessons that he is going to “swim like in the Olympics when he is older." I certainly hope his dream comes true!