As my husband and I sat with a front row view of our son receiving his senior band blanket two weeks before his high school graduation, I couldn’t help but reflect on how far he had come these last four years. Who was this outgoing and confident young man standing before us? Where was the quiet and timid boy from freshman year? And although my daughter has quite the opposite personality of her older brother, she too started her high school career as a different person. She lacked confidence and self-esteem. However, being a member of the cheerleading squad these last three years has dramatically influenced her character. My daughter now leads the sideline crowds with pride and confidence, her self-esteem no longer wavering.
How are extracurricular activities influencing our teenagers? According to the University Interscholastic League website, commonly referred to as UIL, about one half million middle school, junior high, and high school students’ benefit from participating in UIL music events. In addition, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) website reports that about 395,000 students participate in high school cheerleading in the U.S. Research shows that students who participate in extracurricular activities have a higher probability for success both inside and outside of the classroom.
As a mother who has supported and encouraged my own children through extracurricular activities, or ECA’s, I have seen the benefits first-hand. While being involved in extracurricular activities can be a costly investment, it is well worth the time and money spent. Aside from boosting confidence and self-esteem, being involved in ECA’s gives kids a head start with the skill set they will need to survive life outside of high school. In fact, they learn three very important life lessons by participating in extracurricular activities.
ECA’s Life Lessons
Life Lesson #1- Time Management & Priorities
Extracurricular activities help kids learn how to manage their time wisely and prioritize. They have to find the balance between the hours they put in towards practice, rehearsal, etc. and the time they need to complete homework, school projects, and chores regardless of how tired they may be. Children learn that they must prioritize their responsibilities in order to get the tasks done successfully.
Life Lesson #2-Dedication & Hard Work
Participating in ECA’s also fosters the concepts of dedication and hard work, as a result teaching children about sacrifice. Being part of a team challenges kids to take pride in their work and put forth their best efforts, even if it means giving up time with friends, social events, or even just time to watch and enjoy a favorite T.V. show.
Life Lesson #3-Sense of Team & Family
Extracurricular activities develops a sense of team and family. Kids learn that their actions, choices, and attitudes directly impact the other members of the group. They learn how to contribute to the overall well-being and success of the team, not just in their specific activity, but in a global sense as well.
Band and cheerleading have been a huge part of our lives for the last several years. Every competition, performance, rehearsal, practice, and try-out has forever impacted the two young adults that we are getting ready to send out into the world. While we strive to teach these life lessons to our children every day, we couldn’t have done so in the same magnitude that participating in extracurricular activities has. Even though my kids may not continue with ECA’s after high school, I am confident that my children will use the life lessons they have learned through participating in extracurricular activities to help them survive the real world demands that await them.