First 5 LA’s vision is a future where every child prenatal to age 5 in Los Angeles County grows up healthy, protected and ready to succeed in school. Each month, we will ask people who work with, care for, or advocate on behalf of young children and their families in L.A. County about how we can make this vison a reality.

This month’s question:

“What lessons can sports teach young children?”

“As young children discover their world, sport helps them to develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends and have fun. The power of play breaks down barriers and helps kids feel good about themselves, and encourages a healthy lifestyle from an early age. Sports help kids do better in school and better in life.”

Renata Simril, President of the LA84 Foundation, which funds youth sports in Southern California

“Growing up playing sports taught me how to become a leader, made me confident, and several other positive characteristics. Today I believe every young child should participate in some type of sporting activity to stay busy and to stay fit.”

James Holliman, Senior Lead Officer, LAPD Southeast Division, Watts Bears Youth Football /Track Coach

“One time when playing kickball, I berated another little girl for striking out. Our teacher put me in a time out. That experience taught me not to value winning over hurting a teammate. Nowadays, I’m consistently recognized as a good team player in work environments. I’m sure I gained such skills in my time as an athlete and coach. Team sports provided opportunities for me to form deep bonds with other kids, bonds which often crossed race, ethnicity, religion and class. Playing sports was likely the first time I experienced the power of synergy, that while negotiating relationships, personalities and egos can be harder than going alone, it’s more rewarding accomplishing things together and the end product is often richer as a result of teamwork.”

Sharon Murphy, First 5 LA Grants Management Program Officer

I feel that playing a sport, any sport, at a young age is a very positive experience and makes for a great learning experience. At a young age, children think they are simply learning how to come together to score or prevent the other team from scoring. But what they take away from the whole experience, subconsciously, are lessons that will carry with them for the rest of their lives. A child learns the responsibility of having to show up to practice or games on time, even when they may not feel like it. Knowing that the team is depending on them to show up and play like a team player will instill values that they will use as professionals later in life. When children learn that they are part of something that is bigger than themselves they grow up to be adults who come together and make great things happen.”

Jack Guerrero, T-ball coach, El Monte, CA