Young athletes cite having fun, learning new skills, making friends and feeling successful as some of the reasons why they partake in sports. But the benefits of youth athletics go much further than this.
Sports offer a specialized arena where youth can demonstrate their talents and hone their skills. In fact, participating in sports is physically, socially, cognitively and psychologically engaging. Children are working together with others toward a common goal—not just with teammates, but coaches, families and the community as well.
Fitness: Kids develop a high level of fitness that is good for their health, while having fun.
Stress relief: Partaking in sports allows kids to clear their heads. Because of this stress relief, many students perform better when they are involved in sports.
Master skills: Kids develop athletic talents while also learning that practice improves skills. The idea that practice leads to improvement provides children with a sense of ownership of their successes.
Healthy lifestyle choices: The most valuable tool used in sports is one’s own body. Because of this, many young athletes tend to refrain from using drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking because they do not want to harm their bodies or their performance.
Valuing practice and preparation: Participating in sports shows kids that self-discipline and practice yield positive results. Practicing also explores alternative ways of doing something to achieve better results.
Resiliency: Sports teaches kids about losing, disappointment and moving on from negative experiences.
Controlling perspectives: Athletes learn to be confident in themselves and their abilities.
Leadership: Athletes have the opportunity to serve as leaders of their peers, which teaches them valuable skills for the future.
Identity: Kids on sports teams learn to both identify with the team and to also establish a personal identity.
Time management: Since sports are time-consuming, athletes must learn how to balance them with school priorities and family commitments. This can help make children better able to prioritize their own lives.
Establishing relationships: Young athletes learn how to form strong bonds with others as they compete and train with one another.
Teamwork: Kids learn that cooperation with others is the key to achieving goals. They also learn to put aside differences and work together to achieve a common goal.
Diversity: The sporting arena is a great place to engage with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Developing relationships with adults: Engaging with coaches and teammates’ parents allows young athletes to develop social skills in meeting and talking to adults.
Being part of the community: Often sports teams are a central part of the community. Being a part of the team allows athletes to be active members of the community at an early age.
BENEFITS FOR FEMALES
Female athletes especially benefit from participating in sports as young children. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports attributes sports to increasing self-esteem and confidence, leading to a healthy body image and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Also, female athletes tend to do better in school, drop out of school less, are less likely to smoke and are less likely to become pregnant as young women than those that do not participate in sports.
MAINTAINING A LIFE BALANCE
Despite all the benefits of sports on a young person’s life, there are drawbacks that parents should be aware of:
- Children developing a “win at all costs” mentality
- Sports taking over as the number one priority in a child’s life
- Children feeling so much pressure to perform well that they neglect injuries and/or other priorities
- Children sometimes develop a negative attitude towards non-athletic peers and/or opponents
Thinking back to my experiences being involved in youth sports (Baseball, Soccer & Football), I am a firm believer in the benefits children get from such activities. And I would recommend that each child be given the opportunity to participate in such activities.
Matthew Davis MBA, AAI