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There’s more to sports than Olympic gold: Just ask a Florida 4-H member

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. As we watch the Winter Olympics on TV this month, we get a daily reminder of the human drama of athletic competition.

But there’s another side of sports that the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension teaches through Florida 4-H. The organization, which involves sports and many other youth-related activities, teaches children many values, one of which is respect for others.

4-H does not focus on sportsmanship per se — its primary focus is on developing life skills — said Matt Benge, a former UF/IFAS Extension 4-H agent. But when 4-H members participate in competitions, they must respect the final score or the judge’s decision, even if they don’t agree, Benge said.

“Congratulating your competitor for a win is extremely difficult when you did your best and/or thought you were the better opponent,” Benge said.

Youth in 4-H organizations nationwide, including those in Florida, participate in a plethora of competitions, Benge said. They include public speaking and competitions in which their judging skills are tested. The youth work predominantly with volunteers in their 4-H clubs.

Benge judged competitions for winners and losers, but there was far more to his job — and for the participants — than winning a ribbon or trophy.

“In 4-H, we strive to ‘do our best’ and to prepare properly,” said Benge, now a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Sometimes we aren’t the best in the room or the show ring, which is a part of life.”

“Teamwork is a big part of 4-H, and understanding how to work with others to accomplish goals is crucial to being a good citizen,” Benge said.

Saundra TenBroeck, a UF/IFAS associate professor of animal sciences and state Extension horse specialist, oversees animal competitions offered at the county, district, state and national levels.

“Animal projects offer more than just competition,” TenBroeck said. “Animal ownership requires time management, hard work, nurturing, planning, goal setting, community service, having fun outside and more.”

When youth work with horses and compete, it provides opportunities for them to win graciously and deal with disappointment, she said.

Apparently, the values 4-H instills in youth pay off. According to a Tufts University study of 4-H youth development people in 4-H:

  • Report better grades, higher levels of academic competence and an elevated level of engagement at school.
  • Are nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college.
  • Are more likely to pursue future courses in a career in science, engineering, or computer technology.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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