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What sports can teach us about strength of mind

Veronica Blanco Parenting Sports

We are a very sporty family. We run marathons and triathlons, we even do adventure races with the kids. Some of my friends just think we are crazy, but let me tell you, there is something extremely fulfilling about completing a race. It is not only the adrenaline pumping when you cross the line…but the fact that you train hard for a few months for an objective. Isn’t life about putting effort in something that you want, having patience during the journey and finally accomplishing what you were looking for? Isn’t it an excellent example for our kids, who seem to have a very easy life? Overcoming adversities to get to an objective is a great to boost our self-esteem.


I read this week an interesting article from Dr Marilyn Price Mitchell “ Why Risk taking may increase Teen Happiness”. It basically says and I am quoting her clever words: “When young people learn to overcome challenges and meet risk head on, they learn to be resilient. They learn that exploration beyond their comfort zones often leads to unexpected rewards and psychological peaks. They develop courage, curiosity, self-confidence, and persistence.”

We automatically relate teen-age risks with drugs, alcohol and sex, but what about other risks that are less harmful and can fulfill this risk craving that is so natural for them? I found in this article one more reason why sports can be a great asset to our children’s development.

We were lucky to find here in Brazil, an excellent group of friends that are keen on the adventure-family-run thing, so last December we went all together as a family to a race the Adventure Camp.

To be clear on what we are talking about, it is a race that involves mountain and water. Running, mountain biking and canoeing through out different faces of the race. My husband went along with my 13 year old daughter to do 25 km. I had a team of my own with the other three, 10, 8 and 3 years old. I set my child seat on my bike and along we went, three bikes, 4 people. The starting line was all adrenaline. The kids category goes first so dads and mums can cheer them up. Once we were on the go, there were no mums and dads to cheer or help, it was only them, their bike, their legs and their friends. Don’t be scared, they had monitors along with them, very nice and responsible by the way.

It was a great experience for me to see them go from excitement and adrenaline, to tired legs and undesirable moments: holding “number one” and “number two” until we got to a bathroom, wanting to stop when there was still some km to go. The canoe part was especially tiring because we had some rain and wind. But out of the canoe we went and ran all together to the finish line were bright medals were waiting for us. Their faces of satisfaction and pride are still in my mind…

A few minutes later and after waiting anxiously for the other part of our family to finish their journey, I spotted my husband and my teenage daughter pedaling like crazy to the finish line. If you could only see their faces! She was smiling like I’ve never seen her lately (our kids’ smiles tend to be in extinction during teenage years…). He, her father, could not stop looking at her with those proud-watery eyes that he shows once in a while. They crossed the line together, with tired legs but tall, hungry but full, thirsty but energized. Knowing that adversity is just an obstacle that can be overcome with effort, good attitude and character.

Today, a few months later, she was redesigning her bedroom (as all teenage girls do every month!) and as I looked around the mess she was displaying, she had given a special place to a special moment. There it was, the picture of that day, that finish line picture, of herself and her dad with the words written: “Life is not perfect, but it is made of perfect moments”. She choose THIS picture, from the thousand selfies of herself and her girlfriends she has and loves… she choose THIS moment that took her out of her comfort zone but gave her extreme satisfaction.


Being a parent is not easy. When teenage years come along it gets more and more messy. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do to help them sail through these years and become happy adults. Something was made clear to me in this experience…sports are not only good to keep your cholesterol down. Sports take care of something that is much more important that their blood tests, their self-esteem.



Why Risk-Taking May Increase Teen Happiness by by Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD



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