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Athletics teach how to handle success, adversity

Megan Swanker, Sports Editor

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Athletic director Ryan Portenga has been playing sports since grade school at Western Michigan Christian. He says that sports are a way to stay fit and learn that there is more to being competitive than just winning.

Portenga said students participate in athletic activities to improve personal health, expand physical limitations, learn to cope with success and failure, and to understand what teamwork is.

Improving physical health can help prevent the development of long-term diseases and create a better quality of life. Being active can have its own long-term health benefits.

“A healthy lifestyle helps generate both confidence and productivity,” Portenga said.

Physical limits can be expanded by improving the little things. Our limits present our daily output potential.

“Aren’t our experiences more fun when we’re actually good at what we do?” Portenga said. “We get so much more out of our ‘performances’ when we put in the practice time to master a talent and then put it on display.”

Coping with success and failure is another component to why Portenga said students should play sports. Students need to learn how to adapt to life’s challenges and how to react in a proper way.

“Life throws curveballs, and we have to learn how to adapt or we will continuously strike out – so to speak,” Portenga said. “If we only know how to cope with success, our reaction to failure could sink us and visa versa.”

Lastly, Portenga said learning how to work with others is important when it comes to sports because working with others happens in other places, other than on a sports team.

“Whether it’s a marriage, a business relationship, dealing with children and loved ones, friends or beyond, life – more often than not – puts us in situations where teamwork must be employed to obtain a desirable outcome,” Portenga said.

Parents also play a role in children playing sports. An online survey of 300 parents from across the country showed that parents believed that particpation in high school sports and activities help children build character, learn important lessons in teamwork and discipline, and prepare them for the future.
There is more to love about sports besides winning. Love for the game is what should encourage one to keep playing. Getting a first-place trophy does not mean anything if the athlete does not have fun while earning it.

A Michigan State University study by the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports found that the No. 1 reason young children play sports is to have fun. The same survey revealed, “Even at the high school level, most kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning one. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t value winning, just that they prefer playing.”

Love for the game can do more than keep one fit, healthy, and happy. Sports can open many doors to the future if continued. Succeeding in a sport can provide the opportunity to earn a scholarship that can help with future career paths. An example would be Portenga.

“I participated in athletics for all of the aforementioned reasons, but got so much more out of my competitive experiences,” Portenga said. “Countless doors were opened, including landing a career in athletic administration.”

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