The Wins for Warriors Foundation has a mission to empower United States military veterans and their families by strengthening collaboration and raising positive awareness in our community. One way that we have continued to see veterans and their families bond and find strength in one another is through sporting events. Whether it is being active and playing a sport together, or attending a sporting event and watching, sports have an incredible ability to cultivate family bonding.
Research shows that regularly participating in physical activities together facilitates emotional bonding toward one another. That emotional bonding is one of the most valuable elements in the adjustment that veterans face as they transition back into civilian life. Veterans who are making the adjustment back home are often faced with the difficulties of leaving the physical demands that the Armed Forces had required of them in the past and channeling it into a healthy and balanced lifestyle in the present and the future.
The mental health of military members and veterans is considered a top national security policy priority in recognition of the integral role family members have in supporting service members and, therefore, the entire mission of the military. The deployment of a military member has major effects on that individual person and their family as well. A study done by Jensen, Martin, & Watanabe shows that people with close loved ones demonstrate higher levels of depressive symptoms and stressors. The effects make their way down to the children of military members and veterans by impacting emotional and behavioral distress, risky behaviors, and academic impact both during and following the deployment.
Because of the stress and hardships that our veterans and their families face during and after their service, emotional connection and bonding is the greatest strength to maintaining the mental health of our heroes. It is the intense connection between mind and body that make sports such a powerful bonding method. Plus, engaging in sports activities is a great way to have fun and stay fit.
Here are some ways to incorporate sports into your family life to have fun and connect with one another:
Take Lessons Together
There are tons of options to choose from when it comes to picking a sport to pick up together as a family. Learning how to play a sport together is a great way to spend quality time together and bond through doing something fun as a group. Whether it is golf, tennis, basketball, or ice skating, there is a huge list of activities that can be learned and played in a group. Look online for local classes and programs that your family can sign up for and get ready to embark on your journey of fun, active bonding.
Join a Club
Once you and your family have decided on what sport you would like to participate in together, do some research and find a local group or club to join. There are tons of softball leagues, chess clubs, and dance classes out there that would love to have new and excited members. Doing this is a nice way to meet more families with similar interests and also to really improve your skills in the activity you choose. Incorporating socialization with physical activity can be a very low stress and relaxed way for veterans to enjoy themselves and feel connected with those around them.
Go To a Game
Attending a local sports event or even traveling to attend a sports event on a larger scale can be an experience that families never forget. Watching sports events is exciting! You do not always have to be playing to enjoy the game that is going on. In fact, watching together gives more opportunity for talking and just enjoying being there together. It can take the social pressure off of standard family gatherings and give families the chance to relax, enjoy one another’s company, and cheer on their favorite team.
There are also amazing organizations that promote sports, health and physical fitness to connect with yourself, and/or your family, with other veterans in your area. Check out Team RWB (https://www.teamrwb.org/), Veteran Golfers Association (www.vgagolf.org), and Victory Gym (http://www.victorygymhvc.org/) just to name a few.
At Wins for Warriors Foundation, we will continue to focus on family bonding events and activities, through sports or otherwise, in order to enhance these special and important times together. One way to help is through sponsorships, volunteer opportunities, host your own event, and much more. Also, veterans and military members- we’d love to hear from you! Do you have any family bonding events or activities in which you’d be interested to participate? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect, or sign up for our newsletter at www.winsforwarriors.org.