Children learn important life skills, confidence and teamwork through sports – and it’s loads of fun!
The ribbons twirl in perfect unison, powered by small but quick wrist flicks. “Go faster! One two, one two ...” Sarah Sarraj, the coach, instructs.
Although there is a 30cm height difference between them, 13-year-old Ishra Kamiso and nine-year-old Maia Ong tackle the ribbon routine with confidence. The mesmerising performance is one of the hardest to master in rhythmic gymnastics.
Although the girls are pursuing the sport more for recreational purposes, they give it their all.
TrueSport, a US-based youth sport movement supported by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), reports that sports participation can help children learn important life skills, especially in building the five C’s: competence, confidence, connections, character and care.
Norlin Wan Musa, 45, who started her daughter Ishra in gymnastics at the age of seven, is pleased that her child is not only more active physically, but that she has also reaped positive attributes through her involvement in sports.
“When we first enrolled Ishra in gymnastics, it was more for the experience than anything. It just looked like something fun for a girl to do. But along the way, what she’s learned has been amazing: self-discipline and things like ‘practice makes perfect’. It’s really important for a child to learn that sometimes, you just have to do something over and over again before you finally succeed. And I think sports give children the chance to have a taste of that,” says the homemaker.
Norlin, who believes that children need to be taught how to deal with both victory and failure, says that her daughter goes to a gymnastics centre that supports healthy competition between the students.
Ishra and Ong attend Total Gym-nastique, a gymnastics school in Dataran Prima, Selangor, which periodically organises interclub competitions with sports centres around the world.
“I like that the centre has taught the students to not only compete with one another, but also with themselves. When someone has the right attitude about competition, they are often not so closed off when it comes to helping another person. In a few of my daughter’s classes, I’ve noticed that some of the students don’t mind lending a helping hand to those who have yet to master a certain ability. I think that’s really rare and nice to see when there’s so much competition today, especially among children,” says Norlin.
The mother-of-two says her daughter has become more independent after participating in friendly interclub competitions in Thailand, New Zealand and China.
According to Ishra, being away from home has taught her to be responsible for her own wellbeing.
“Whenever I attend an international competition, I’m required to wake up on my own, wash my own dishes and fold my own clothes. I get to figure out how to do certain things on my own and that gives me confidence in my abilities,” she says.
Rhythmic gymnastics instructor Kim Choo, 56, says that sports give children the opportunity to build confidence through achievement.
“Sports doesn’t only build character, it reveals it. There’s so much to be gained from playing sports. For a young child, it’s the development of motor skills, co-ordination and memory. You’d be surprised to find that the children of today find it hard to even skip rope, because of the lack of co-ordination in their movements.
Through sports, a child will pick up on lifelong skills like teamwork and how to bounce back from a fall,” says Choo, who runs Total Gymnastique with co-founder Mike Ng, an artistic gymnastics instructor.
Choo says that while sports participation allows for multiple character-building opportunities, the outcome depends on the attitude of the child, the parents and also the coach.
“A child can lose interest in one particular sport and take up another later on. But what matters is that they have built up a solid foundation in physical and mental endurance — that sportsmanship that will help them in other areas in life,” Choo remarks.
NEXT PAGE: Overcoming the odds