Like any other team sport, soccer certainly has an added educational value for children, besides the obvious physical health benefits. Sports teach kids the rules that make society function. Yet there are also plenty of things they learn though soccer that are unique to the “Beautiful Game”. It is the most popular sport in the world and one of very few true universals that bring humanity together around our planet. Though inequalities still exist and to some degree always will, soccer is the one sport that is for everyone. People from all walks of life play, follow and love the game.
How does soccer (and other team sports for that matter) teach kids “the rules that make society function”? It teaches them the importance of sportsmanship, comradery and teamwork, while at the same time limiting negative impulses such as extreme competitiveness and selfishness. It teaches them respect as well. That is, respect for others, respect for rules, respect for elders, such as coaches or referees and also respect for opponents. Being good at soccer/other sports gives kids confidence, arguably the most valuable form of self-respect as well. But beyond all of that, the sport makes them learn that one cannot always win. This much-needed lesson is often neglected in modern pedagogy, which often seems to want to protect children from the fact that life cannot always be as we would want it. No one always wins, not in soccer, nor elsewhere. That may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is a dose of reality.
Then there are the lessons that are unique to the “Beautiful Game”. Since it is the most popular and thus universal sport in the world by far, it brings opportunities to unite people of all different cultures and backgrounds. One only needs to look at the worldwide viewership of FIFA World Cup finals matches, which for the longest time have exceeded 1 billion. That fact in itself is mind blowing. Anything that involves that many people from across all imaginable boundaries has a gigantic impact on society. This means that it has an immense potential for good, including when it comes to education of children.
One of the most important things it teaches them as a sport for everybody is inclusivity. On that note, it is appropriate to point out that in 2023, Australia and New Zealand are set to host this year’s edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. For Sam Kerr and her teammates at the Matildas, it will be quite special to have that event on home soil. Sadly, throughout much of the world, soccer still remains a sport for males only. It is ingrained in many cultures that way. But it is encouraging to look at record attendance figures from last season’s remade UEFA Women’s Champions League (particularly in Barcelona) and then at the amazing numbers of the Women’s EURO from last July in England as well as the excitement that Morocco’s female national team caused by becoming the first Arab country to qualify for a Women’s World Cup. All these examples show that the social norms that limit soccer to boys and men are slowly beginning to crumble. New generations will be better of because of it.
As we have demonstrated soccer can teach kids many things. In doing so, it has the power to change the world for the better.