Does playing sports translate to more success in life?

It is something we hear repeatedly as an adage describing the value of youth sports: “Life Lessons.” I’ve written the words myself on numerous occasions. It would be difficult to imagine anyone reading this article who did not believe that the positives derived from kids playing sports far outweigh any negatives. But does playing sports as a child, and into adolescence and beyond, make it more likely we’ll succeed in life? And if so, why?

Throughout my business and personal relationships I’ve come in contact with many successful business people, lawyers, CEO’s and other high-achievers. As I get to know them, I’ve noticed what I believe is a surprising ratio of financially-successful people who starred athletically in high school, or even played in college or the pros. My theory? Maybe they grew up being successful in their sports endeavors and it carried over to the “real” world. Perhaps they just got so used to winning and conquering opponents and being chosen first, that when it came time to put their talents to practical use in the business world, they never considered failure as an option. The natural aggressiveness and competitiveness that served them well on the field of play carried over and helped them “win” in life too.

And, maybe that theory doesn’t hold water. Because we all also know people who were the captain of the team in high school who didn’t end up doing so well.

A study done by economists John M. Barron and Glen R. Waddell of Purdue University and Bradley T. Ewing of Texas Tech University, examines a series of surveys taken by American males who attended high school in the 1970s. It found that high school athletes achieved a level of education 25 to 35 percent higher than their non-athlete classmates. And it’s not just educational achievement that correlates with youth sports participation. Barron, Waddell, and Ewing also found that high school athletes had 12 to 31 percent higher wages than their non-athlete counterparts. And when the wages of college graduates who were high school athletes is compared with those who were not, the athletes generally earned more.

In her article, The Benefits of Team Sports, Lucy Rector Filppu also makes a case for the positive aspects of youth sports. Positive mentors – you coaches – can have a tremendous, beneficial impact on a child’s life, she explains. Often, children will respond better to an objective coach than to their own parent. She also goes on to list her three “Ps”, which are Patience, Practice and Persistence, all of which are virtues kids learn on the field. And finally, she says, youth sports are another reason for family time. “Playing catch in the yard, heading down to the local soccer field for some drill practice… these types of outings with your kids can mean a great deal in our busy parenting culture,” Filppu writes.

But what about the other side of the coin? We have a good friends who are neighbors, and their three kids, two boys and a girl, are about the nicest, most polite children you’ll ever meet. None of them played sports past the age of ten or eleven. For years, we’d hear the oldest boy, who was in the school band, practicing his saxophone in the evening. This year, he’ll graduate from Stanford. His sister, a high school senior, just learned she was accepted to Stanford as well. And my bet is the youngest, who wasn’t much of an achiever when I coached him in T-ball, will reach heights after college that few of his classmates will attain. Their dad is an oncologist. He cures people who have cancer. And if you were choosing sides for a basketball game, you’d pick a lot of guys before him. But if you got some bad news from a doctor, you’d hope he was first in line.

Is there a definite correlation between playing sports and succeeding in life? I don’t think anyone knows for sure. But I do believe that there a few benefits we can’t debate. Kids who play sports are generally healthier because of the exercise and conditioning they get. Athletic kids are less likely to get into trouble since they are busy and they’d have to answer to a coach and teammates if they did. Athletes learn that if you get knocked down, literally and figuratively, you can pick yourself up and keep going. They learn the value of teamwork. The longer kids play sports, the more they learn that life is about competition, and that everyone wants glory and success, but only those who work hardest and have the most talent achieve it. And they learn that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things don’t go your way, but that failure is never fatal, defeat only temporary, and there’s always another chance to try again unless you quit.

Of course, academics and personal relationships also extremely important. And these “life lessons” certainly can be learned elsewhere. But as part of a package, its hard to imagine a better way than athletic competition to prepare kids for the game of life.

What kind of hitter are you?

By Chance Reynolds, Former Professional Baseball Player

One way to help your players have a very successful season this year is by taking a moment to ask them, “What type of hitter do you think you are?”

Most young hitters have never slowed down long enough to consider such a thought.  Typically, they run from hitting lessons to practice to games, with no consideration to the gifts they have blessed with and strengths they may have.

There are only three “types” of hitters:  Singles Hitters, Power Hitters, and “Line Drive” Hitters, and in scouting young players, they all typically fall somewhere within these three categories.  None are more or less important that the other, because in truth, a line-up needs all three to be successful.

A “Singles hitter” is typically a player who has a very short swing, terrific hand eye coordination, a small strike zone, and good to great speed.  This player also usually exhibits a low finish to his swing in order to 1) create more ground balls, and 2) help them get out of the box quicker.  If your son or daughter is small, and blessed with quickness, becoming this type of hitter this spring could really help them 1) get more playing time, and 2) help their team to accomplish their pre-season goals.  This type of hitter is usually found in the 1st, 2cd, and 9th position in their respective lineups, and is typically known as a “table setter” or the “second leadoff.”

The second type is the rarest of the breed, the “Power Hitter”.  There are very few true power hitters in the game today, which is why they demand the highest salaries at the Major League level (supply and demand).  Typical attributes include big body types with long arms, a swing and miss mentality (meaning high risk/high reward), a flair for the dramatic, and a high finish (which encourages more fly balls).  Everyone loves to see this guy hit, because he puts on a show that few forget.  Typically, he is responsible for driving in runs for the team and can usually be found in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots of the lineup.

The third and final type of hitter is a “Line Drive hitter”, and is the most common of the types.  In scouting young players, most kids fall into this category.  Typical attributes include medium to normal body size and speed, good hands defensively, and great discipline at the plate.  In other words, they are just “good baseball players”;  i.e. “doubles” power, very few strikeouts, and an innate ability to situational hit (meaning they hit and run very well, they drive in runs, move guys over, etc…)  If you son is this type of player, he usually fits into a lineup best in the 6th, 7th, and 8th spots, and there is no shame in that.  Always make sure to remind him that each and every lineup in America has a 6th, 7th, and 8th spot in it, and they all need great “baseball players” in order to fill those slots.

In taking a moment to discuss which of the three types your young hitter might be, in truth, you are asking him or her in the short-term, “how best do you help your team?”  and in the long-term, “in what capacity are you going to maximize your talent?”  As Coaches, we all need table setters, grinders, and someone who swings for the fence, so have this conversation with your players in order to help them find out what they can do best to 1) help them have a very successful spring, and 2) help their team win a championship!

Former Professional Baseball Player, Chance Reynolds, is the Inventor of the Pitcher’s Nightmare Swing Trainer.  Endorsed by 1991 N.L. M.V.P. and current Atlanta Braves Hitting Coach, Terry Pendleton, the Pitcher’s Nightmare Swing Trainer not only increases your bat speed, but teaches proper hitting fundamentals as well. Follow Chance’s blog at (www.pitchersnightmare.com).