Participating in sports and extracurricular activities is beneficial to students in so many ways. But not all schools offer robust programming, and some kids never get the chance to learn the value of sports and other activities.
St. Norbert School, a Catholic PreK-8 school in Northbrook, has long recognized the value of no-cut athletics for helping kids build confidence and strengthen relationships — skills that transfer to their academic success. No-cut sports allow students to try new sports and persevere without having to master any one sport to make a team. This allows them to grow as athletes and as people as they discover their natural talents.
Chicago-area dad Tim Sterzik knows the value of sports for his three kids. He has two sons in middle school and one who graduated from St. Norbert School and now attends high school. All three are big into extracurricular sports and participate in whatever sport is available each season.
“All three have played football, basketball and volleyball,” Sterzik says. In fact, the Sterzik family are parishioners at Holy Cross and first learned about St. Norbert School through student sporting events at Holy Cross in Deerfield.
Skills to take to the classroom
No matter what sport a student plays at St. Norbert School, they gain valuable opportunities to learn about teamwork and inclusion.
“The teamwork aspect is one of the biggest things for my kids,” Sterzik says. “Through sports, you really have to learn how to be a team player to make things work.”
Brady, the oldest Sterzik son, has gone on to play high school football, and his dad recognizes how Brady’s participation has solidified his understanding of and commitment to sportsmanship.
“You really have to be able to be part of a team and put the team ahead of yourself, and that continues to reflect in his abilities in high school,” Sterzik says. “He’s become a leader, too. He’s on the football leadership council and wants to be a captain. And he’s developed these skills over the years. Putting the team ahead of himself gave him a solid grounding in sportsmanship.”
Even when their teams don’t win, Brady and his younger brothers Jackson, an eighth grader, and Sean, a sixth grader, both at St. Norbert School, don’t give up.
“A lot of times they don’t win, and they know it’s OK and that they have to keep trying,” Sterzik says. “You keep going to practice and make sure you pay attention and participate. That’s how you get better and add to the team effort.” Perseverance is an important skill kids learn through team sports and can carry with them throughout their academic, career and life experiences.
And, the physical activity gained through sports at St. Norbert School contributes to a student’s physical health and mental well-being. “Sports have definitely made my kids more physically capable and that makes them want to continue to work on their fitness. There are so many benefits to this. It’s better for their minds and their bodies,” Sterzik says, adding that his sons share that enthusiasm with each other — and that strengthens their bond. “Brady spends time in the weight room and has passed a regimen onto Jackson, who shares what he’s learned with Sean.”
Value of sports for ‘whole-person education’
Perhaps the greatest benefit of extracurricular activities like sports is the discipline kids develop when they are on a team and working together toward a common goal. What they learn on the football field or basketball court, they can apply to classroom work, too. “Sports and academics both require discipline,” Sterzik says. “That carries over, back and forth.”
Through sports, kids have the opportunity to strengthen relationships, which helps in the classroom as well as at home, Sterzik says. This is especially important for kids who come from all over Chicagoland to attend St. Norbert School. Even if they don’t live in the same neighborhood, kids can continue their classroom relationships through sports and other extracurricular activities.
At St. Norbert School, kids have all kinds of opportunities to participate. An annual school basketball tournament called “Roundball” for boys and girls in fourth through eighth grades helps kids build the important skills of teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership through basketball. And, because everyone gets to play regardless of age or ability, the whole tournament is inclusive and fun.
When Holy Cross closed four years ago, the Sterzik family knew from the friendly feel of St. Norbert sports families that St. Norbert School could be an option for their kids.
“The Roundball Tournament is one of my favorite things about the school in terms of sports,” he says. “It was one of the first things we attended as a family before the kids started school there.”
Sterzik appreciates the fact that the older kids serve as team captains and siblings get to play together. “The eighth graders will coach the fourth and fifth graders and, over the years, when it’s their turn to coach, they have gained that experience,” he says. “This teaches the older kids how to be responsible too, and work with the younger kids.”
Students at St. Norbert School can participate in volleyball, cross country, cheerleading, football, track and field and golf — and there’s even Bitty Basketball for PreK and first-grade students. Bitty Basketball helps students develop social-emotional skills of working with others, building confidence, navigating different personalities, etc. These skills carry over into the classroom as students begin to participate in small group work. By the time they get to fourth grade (when sports start), they have a toolkit of skills to pull from — and the confidence, or, in some cases, courage to try something new and meet other kids they otherwise wouldn’t.
While Sterzik says his kids have also been involved in art, music and peer ministry, sports have been their favorite activities at St. Norbert School. They take the wins and the losses and keep it all in perspective.
“We try to have our kids learn skills in order to be competitive, but it’s not that winning is the most important thing,” he says. “Do we want to be competitive? Is it awesome to win? Yes, but that’s not the reason to get into sports. Participating helps them learn and develop and get to the next level, but it also helps them learn how to be a team player. It’s about a whole-person education and sports is just one piece of that. For my boys, it’s been a big piece.”
Learn more about St. Norbert School at stnorbertschool.org.