One of our family’s favourite things to do in the summertime is participate in family sports. We don’t have to be particularly good at it, and it’s not always the same sport, although there are ones that we tend to play over and over again. The important part is that all four of us play together. It may be in our backyard, at the local park or when we travel. We often travel with a bag of sporting equipment no matter how far from home we are going. It helps ensure that we can play whenever the opportunity arises.
We have spent countless hours together playing freeze tag, Pop Fly 500 (a current family favourite), soccer, and tennis. Sometimes, one of us plays with the kids while the other parent prepares supper. Sometimes, the kids play one-on-one. Sometimes, team sports are where it's at and one place that comes together in an amazing way is at the Danone Nations Cup, a soccer tournament held every July since 1999. Over 65,000 kids from all over Canada have entered tryouts over the years and hundreds have gone on to hit the pitch. This year, over 2000 kids turned out for final picks and 12 girls and 12 boys will go on to represent Canada at the International final this year in New York. But playing together has more than just physical benefits; have you seen the smile on a kid's face whos just been part of a team, giving their all? It's unbeatable, no matter the final score.
My most favourite time in my family is when all four of us play together. Two-on-two, or just a rally between us, the memories we make while laughing and playing outlast the summer months, and each year we talk about what games we will be playing as the weather warms up.
Organized sports have long had a welcome place in our family. From baseball, to soccer, to gymnastics, I love the team spirit, dedication, and work ethic that team sports teach our kids. We know it's crucial for kids to be more active, and each year we sign them up for another activity to keep them fit and healthy. However, as parents, we can’t just sit around the table insisting that our kids put down the tablet and head outside to kick the ball around. We need to set an example. Are we taking the time to join them? We’ve tried to make that a priority in our family.
We spend a lot of time teaching our children about healthy eating and how a healthy lifestyle includes physical sport. As parents, we need to help model this in our own backyards and communities. I know the importance of getting the kids outside and active, but unless they see me putting those words into action, it’s not enough. This isn’t a time when I can use the old adage “do as I say, not as I do” because as a family, all of our health is important. I need to get out there with the kids. What I’ve discovered along the way is just how much we all cherished these moments.
In all of my years as a parent, I have many memories of playing different sports as a family. We still talk about the epic soccer matches played on the beachfront when we are in PEI. Or the driveway hockey games after school (diamond rings and teeth have been knocked out during these games, so there are plenty of stories to recap). We are always looking for an opportunity to grab the tennis rackets and get out on the court together. These activities have nurtured a healthy bond between everyone in our family, while keeping the kids - and mom and dad - fit.
Perhaps that’s one reason why I love reading about initiatives like the Danone Nations Cup. Not only is it the world’s biggest soccer tournament for children aged 10 to 12, it's been around for almost 20 years and it won't be long before kids who participate are the kids of adults who took part! It’s heartening to read about how Danone is active in communities across Canada and the work they do to highlight healthy activities for young Canadians. Soccer is an accessible sport that kids and parents can play together at anytime. We just need a ball and a bit of outdoor space. We’ve even used ball hats, gloves, and shoes to create a net when starting an impromptu family soccer game. Soccer also helps build the skills needed for effective teamwork. We’ve learned this first hand in our fun games of two-on-two!
As a family, and through initiatives like the Danone Nations Cup, we can all prioritize healthy, active lifestyles. It’s time that parents get off the bench and into the game with our kids. All of us need to be active, and together we can teach each other about healthy choices, both on and off the field.
Besides, it’s fun! And that feeling can’t be beat.