Olympics Provide Great Learning Opportunity

Parents, Children can Learn About New Sports, Other Cultures

As a sports enthusiast, I cannot wait to watch the 2018 Winter Olympic Games when they roll around every four years. I love seeing the athletes’ achievements – even the non-medal winners – and the pride they take in representing their country.

The games start this Friday in PyeongChang, South Korea, and run until Feb. 25. While the Olympics are fun to watch, they also provide a great educational opportunity. You and your children have a chance to learn about other countries, unique sports, (did you know skiing and shooting was an Olympic sport? It is and is called the biathlon.) and sportsmanship. If you are wondering how you can incorporate some education into watching the games, here are some tips:

It’s an international event: Countries – large and small -- from around the world participate in the Olympic Games. Ask your children if they have heard of an athlete’s particular country, such as The Netherlands, and see if the two of you can find it on a map. Many of the countries that typically do well in the Winter Games are located in the top northern parts of the world or have a lot of mountains so you may want to ask your children why they think that happens.

New sports and athletes: When most of us watch sports on TV, it is basketball, football or baseball. You will not find any of those sports in the Winter Games. Instead, you can watch a lot of snow- and ice-based events, including cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, speed skating, hockey, luge and bobsledding. Ask your children what they know about a particular sport, such as curling. You can look up information on how it is played and also see if there are local opportunities to give the sport a try or view in person. You may be surprised at what you learn!

This is also a perfect time to learn more about athletes who may not regularly be in the spot light, such as Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White and Mirai Nagasu. You and your kids can follow them and cheer them on.

Sportsmanship: Children know a lot about sportsmanship – mostly because they have seen firsthand how negatively some players and teams act when they lose or win. One great part of the Olympics is the great sportsmanship displayed. Athletes are naturally excited when they win a medal, but everyone gets cheered on. As you watch with your children, ask them if they are seeing good or bad sportsmanship being displayed and discuss why being a good sport matters.

The Olympic Games also provide an ideal time to talk about hard work and dedication to something you really enjoy. The athletes involved spend many years practicing and striving to get better. Help your children realize by working hard and trying to get better that they will see improvements in their performance, whether it is in a classroom or on a sports field. They may not win a medal – you can point out most Olympians come home without a medal – but they did their best and that is what matters.

Watching the Olympics with your children is a great experience. You both can learn a lot from it. Go Team USA!

Luke Tremble, MD, is a pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton.