The Olympic games are theatrical, colorful, fun, and thrilling. The athletes are bold, determined, courageous, and inspiring. Millions of us will tune in to watch them compete while we tally up the medals won for our respective countries.
Every four years we have the chance to draw inspiration from the athletes and teach our children a few things. Watching the Olympics as a family can be a fun activity and a great opportunity to share with our children valuable life lessons. Here are some of those important lessons:
1. Our children are capable of great things
The individuals competing in the Olympic games are incredible. They are off the charts as far as athleticism goes. And yet, they are still regular people. The thing that sets them apart is that they train incredibly hard and they never give up. They have a dream that they haven’t lost sight of. Let’s show our kids that they are capable of doing amazing, wonderful, big things too.
2. Great things don’t come easy
These athletes work hard. They train an average of six hours per day, six days a week, for many years. Gold medals are not just handed out; they are earned. Athletes work to gain a spot on an Olympic team and they work even harder to place in the Olympics. The journey to Rio is grueling, sweaty, difficult and includes many, many sacrifices. Let’s show our children the effort and hard work that goes into being a superstar swimmer or gymnast. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it when it is something you really want.
3. Dream big. Really big
This one is more obvious but still true. Sure, for many individuals competing in the Olympics is out of the question. But what if Michael Phelps, Kerri Strug or Jesse Owens thought it was too big of a dream to pursue? Amazing things can happen when people have an incredible dream and pursue to it. Let’s teach our children not to settle for mediocrity. Let’s teach them to dream and strive for what they really want in life.
4. The value in teamwork
These athletes are part of something greater than themselves. Olympians in team sports must communicate together and work well with one another. Olympic rowers, for example must be perfectly synchronized with each other. No one person can go at their own pace. Other events, such as the 4x400 meter relay, require each individual to do their best in order for the whole team to succeed. Some sports, such as speed skating, are individual, but the athletes are competing as part of a larger team. In the Olympics—and in many life scenarios—each person must play their unique role while working as part of a larger team.
5. Introduction to new and unusual sports
One of the great things about the Olympics is that there are so many unique sports. Your kids may feel like they will never be good at playing basketball or soccer. But by watching the Olympics they will be introduced to new sports such as judo, trampoline, and handball. It’s fun to see the sports other cultures value and there may even be a new sport your child will want to try out. Your child may not be the best swimmer, but, who knows, they could thrive in archery or sailing.
The Olympics includes people from all over the world, even countries you or your kids have never heard of. (Azerbaijan, anyone?) Seeing the variety of cultures, races, and people groups can show children how diverse and wonderful the world is. Kids can learn about other countries, languages, and traditions without taking a flight to the other side of the world.
7. We can’t all be winners
So many athletes pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their Olympic performance and still go home empty-handed. Even worse, some will experience injuries that will prevent them from ever competing in the games again. It’s a tough lesson for our kids to learn, but an important one. No matter how much we try and practice, we don’t always come out on top.
8. In the end, it’s about the journey
Not every athlete will go home with what they came for. But hopefully every athlete will go home more proud and grateful than ever. Experiences like this are all about the journey. Athletes have been stretched, challenged and tested. Even though most will not have won the gold, they all will have still had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and be changed for the better through the process. Life is not about an end result. It’s about growing, learning, and enjoying the ride.
There are also the life lessons of courage, determination, perseverance and bravery. While you’re cheering on your favorite athletes and rooting for your country to rack up those gold medals this summer, point out some of these life lessons to your children. Watching the Olympics can be both fun and enlightening for the whole family.