Foster children sometimes experience difficulty when adjusting to a new family environment. Some of them have lived with several families or spent time in a children's institution before being placed with a nurturing family. Experts often recommend that foster kids play sports to help them adjust in a variety of ways. In particular, basketball has been shown to be a favorite sport of children everywhere, and it plays a valuable role in the lives of children who are learning to adjust to new and sometimes challenging life circumstances.
Kids who have moved from one home environment to another frequently find themselves feeling lost and disconnected. They are not always sure who they can trust, and they can often become isolated and detached from their surroundings. Yet, they need to learn important life skills to function in their current environment as well as prepare for the future.
Playing a Team Sport
Basketball helps build essential life skills, like building relationships, setting boundaries, and managing transitions. Kids who play the sport learn from their coaches who train them to take care of themselves in certain ways, such as eating healthy and sleeping adequately. Foster kids also observe other children on the team and learn how they manage life skills, such as completing homework, setting and meeting goals, respecting parents and authority, and playing by the rules. These positive examples help foster kids to learn valuable skills.
Basketball team rules and game rules are specific and do not change. This provides solid boundaries for foster children who sometimes come from unstable backgrounds. Learning to trust a fixed structure like a team is important as well as building friendships with teammates and coaches. Working together to achieve objectives and to become successful in winning games is often a new experience for foster kids. As they get used to the idea of taking turns and functioning as a single unit, they learn core values like solidarity and priorities. Each team player also learns to specialize in a certain team role plus to respect and coordinate with the roles of other players.
Boundaries and limits are also important learning objectives for all children. In addition to basketball rules, the playing court itself is a designated area within which there are clear demarcations of team space. Respecting the other team's space, plus handling the ball within the basketball court's limits, are helpful experiences for children who may have known few or frequently shifting ones, in their previous environments. It is also important for them to learn when they should or should not handle the ball, as well as to control stress and irritation if the other team crosses the line or makes a mistake. Accidental bumps, being pushed down, or even booed by the other team's supporters, can be difficult to manage for children who are often used to retaliating in their own way. Self-control and self-discipline are vital for children to develop, both on the court and in life.
Learning how to negotiate new spaces within a family, at school, and on the court requires a thoughtful attitude toward what each of those things represent. Foster children benefit from becoming sensitized to various new environments that require different skills and adaptations. Basketball encourages physical activity, team camaraderie, and physical development in terms of ball-handling moves and plays. Learning how to listen, learn, and cooperate as part of a team to achieve something bigger than the individual is a desirable objective for all children, but especially those who come from a foster background. Kids who play sports learn to keep sports play in the gym and focus on other things in school and at home.
Many schools require students to successfully perform academically before playing sports. This helps children learn to prioritize everyday activities and long-term goals. In addition, juggling both academic responsibilities with basketball commitments for workouts, practices, and games can help students to develop more than one skill set at a time, preparing them for the realities of life where, as adults, we all must generally be able to do this. With the coach and school expecting academic achievement as part of the right to play on a team, foster kids' attitudes toward school can be reinforced by supportive foster parents, teachers, and coaches as they begin to understand the preeminence of a quality and successful education, both now and for future jobs.
Friends and Social Connections
When a child comes into a new family and community from a foster background, he or she often feels lost and disconnected. It takes time to find a niche where the child can develop a new identity and feel comfortable. Making new friends at school and in the neighborhood is often challenging, especially for shy children, or those who have lived in a previously dysfunctional environment. Joining the basketball team is especially advantageous in helping children to quickly bond with peers -- at first out of necessity, and later from a sense of sportsmanship and team spirit. Sharing game goals and life experiences as they grow up typically provides a neutral opportunity to choose friends. Team buddies often continue their friendships for years beyond school basketball, contributing to lifestyle permanence and consistency.
Being a foster child or parenting a foster child has its challenges. Kids often struggle to adapt to a new family, a new school, and new social activities. Joining a basketball team provides opportunities like those indicated above. It also allows kids to wear off stress through physical activity and to develop eye-hand coordination and muscle coordination. Foster kids who play sports like basketball find a second family in the gym and on the court. They become more self-aware of their value to the team, as well as the need or desire to develop special skills that can contribute to the greater good as they represent the team, the school, and the community while playing basketball.