We all get told that capitalism is dog eat dog. But competition takes teamwork, and kids can learn a lot about economics from sports. So can adults.
What if we actually applied what we learned on the soccer field about rules, cheaters, sportsmanship, and working together?
- Without rules, there’s no game. Rules may be frustrating, but they exist for a purpose. They keep the game safe and fair and interesting.
- People will play to the rules, even if that gets ugly. As much as it sucks, there will always be people who push the limits.
- Without a ref, some people cheat. Somebody needs to have a whistle and kick habitual cheaters to the sidelines. See Number 1.
- People can change the rules to make the game safer or better. When pediatricians learned that heading the ball can cause brain damage, Canadian leagues for kids took heading out of the game.
- You can choose not to do something mean or stupid even if it’s allowed.
- Hogs are no fun.
- There’s no such thing as a one-man point. People get to be stars only because other people are playing their positions and doing their jobs.
- Pull your weight. Not everybody has the same position or abilities, but every position matters, and slackers take down the whole team.
- Every point is a combination of work, skill and plain old luck. Even when you play your best, the ball sometimes takes an odd bump. Sometimes you just get outplayed. And sometimes you get lucky. Don’t take more credit or blame than you deserve.
- Persistence pays off. Nobody wins who can’t pick themselves back up after losing.
- Your coaches actually know something. If you want to be a valuable player, listen and learn. Process mistakes so you don’t have to repeat them.
- Play hard, and play to win, but it’s not worth hurting someone in the process.
- When someone’s down, help them up. A bit of kindness goes a long way.
- Be careful how you treat the other team—you may have the same people on your side down the road. Sportsmanship matters.
- Winning isn’t everything. Yeah, winning is great, but ultimately the point is to have fun and spread happiness, and maybe—along the way—to learn a little something about life.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.