Guest Blog: Reading makes you better at football!
Posted on 19/05/2016 in Guest posts
Danny Scott, author of the Scotland Stars F.C. series and goalie for Scotland Writers F.C. tells us why reading is important for football and other sports.
5 ways that reading books will make you a better footballer
They might not be but often, to sport-mad kids, reading can be a chore. What’s sitting down and quietly leafing through a book compared to twisting and turning on the turf, scoring goals and sliding on your knees to celebrate. Who wants to read when the roar of 65,000 fans is belting out the TV’s speakers?
Against playing or watching sport, reading can seem a little less glamorous. Growing up, I would have played sport or watched it all day if I could. My dad, however, was an English teacher so I had no choice but to read books, too.
I would go on to play for district teams at football and rugby, and captain my school’s basketball team. Asked back then whether I thought being a keen reader had helped me get better at sport, I would have laughed. But now, thinking back, I firmly believe that it did.
So try this line out on your sport-mad reluctant reader: reading books will make you better at football (or any sport). If they laugh, then float these arguments their way.
1. Reading gives your brain a good workout
Reading actively increases your brain power. Just like jogging will improve your ability to run for longer in matches, reading will give your brain a good workout. The brain is a muscle. It needs exercise too! If you want to make better decisions on the pitch, and digest your coach’s instructions, then do regular brain workouts with books. As the late, great Johan Cruyff said: “You play football with your head, and your legs are just there to help you.”
2. Reading makes you a better problem solver
Why can’t we get past our opponent’s defence? What’s stopping us from scoring? Individual and team sports involve a constant stream of problem solving. It’s been proven that reading books helps our brain to make associations that we might have otherwise never seen – like the other team playing a right footer at left back.
Watch Andy Murray’s face when he’s waiting for his opponent to serve and you’ll see how hard he is concentrating. Sports stars work hard to develop the ability to block everything else out and focus on the ball in front of them. The easiest way to practice this at home is to switch off your TV or console, and read a book.
4. It will help you to understand your teammates
Empathy is a tricky one to explain to youngsters but your ability to understand others is vital to team sports. In my Scotland Stars books, Calum and his friend Leo are constantly faced with challenging behaviour from teammates and opponents. Often, their success or failure relies on figuring out what they need to do to overcome those challenges. And, of course, one of the best ways to develop your ability to know what it’s like to stand in another person’s shoes is reading.
When you spend time reading interviews with sports stars it quickly becomes clear that they share one trait, incredible self-belief. Confidence isn’t a trait readily associated with kids from these isles and yet young hopefuls will need it to rise to the top of any game. Luckily, we have books and reading to help us develop our self-esteem and confidence. How does it do this? Well, for all the reasons above, when you feel smarter and make good decisions you feel more confident. You feel better able to overcome the challenges sport, and life, throw at you.
Suggested activities for the classroom or rainy day at home
Invent your own sport
J.K. Rowling famously invented Quidditch for her Harry Potter books. It became so popular that people now play a version of it in city parks around the world.
Getting your kids or pupils to create their own sport is a fantastic opportunity for literacy. They can write out their own rules, create a match report, teams and stadiums, or make a presentation to the class to recruit players. You could even go one further and ask your kids to play the sport for you, or practice it in PE.
Questions to work on:
- Is it a team sport or will it be played individually?
- What are the rules?
- Is it athletic or a game, like darts or snooker?
- Is there a time limit?
- How do you decide the winner?
- What equipment do you need?
- What do the outfits look like?
Practice basic numeracy or just give your kids something to do on a rainy day with a tournament schedule (from a newspaper or downloaded online) and some dice.
For each match, roll a number of dice for each team and add up the values to determine the winner. You can use more dice for children who are more confident with numeracy skills.
Keep rolling through the “tournament” until you get to the final!
You can add a layer by creating a sudden death penalty shoot out in the event of a draw. Roll the dice until you get a clear winner, or roll each dice five timeswith the winner of each roll scoring one penalty (best of five).
Scotland Stars F.C.
The first three books in Danny Scott’s Scotland Stars F.C. series are available now!
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