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Youth Sports and Health: Beyond the Physical

by | May 16, 2022 | Family

Youth sports are a big part of childhood for many American families. According to Project Play from the Aspen Institute, over 50% of American children and adolescents are involved in some kind of sport, and the benefits are staggering. Here are just a few reasons to involve your children in sports. 

Physical Health 

Probably the most obvious benefit of kids’ sports is the physical health boost. Running, jumping, and playing are amazing against childhood obesity statistics and can help build healthy, strong bodies. The CDC recommends that children and adolescents get at least 1 hour of active exercise every single day, and the World Health Organization recommends more! Sports facilitate this through at-home practices, team practice, and scheduled games or scrimmages.  

Most kids are naturally bouncy and full of energy. From the moment they can walk, they just want to go go go! Encourage this within your children by playing, chasing, and above all, just having a good time. 

Mental Health 

Physical health is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your child’s well-being. Consistent physical activity promotes mental health, too. 

In a recent study, researchers found that team sports made a huge improvement in the mental health of children who had tough childhood experiences. This study of over 9,000 children followed them over the course of their childhood and adolescence into adulthood. The study concluded, “Team sports may be an important and scalable resilience-builder.” 

The Aspen Institute reports mental health benefits throughout childhood and adolescence with participation in youth sports like: 

  • Higher test scores 
  • Less smoking and drug use 
  • Lower levels of depression 
  • Higher self esteem 
  • Higher chances of going to college 

Even if your child doesn’t become an international sensation in soccer, the long-term benefits of playing sports can’t be denied. 

Emotional Health 

Emotional health and intelligence are things that kids learn naturally (or don’t) from the environment around them. By playing sports, children are in an environment that helps them learn how to manage triumphs and disappointments, as well as work with other people toward a common goal. All of these experiences teach emotional intelligence. 

Dr. Austerman was a researcher in the study on team sports and mental health. He noted how sports teach emotional health as well. “Having your kids in structured social activities that they can learn appropriately, and they can be safe, but activities that help build persistence, and resilience, are very positive influences later on in life,” he said. 

When emotional intelligence is modeled for a child, they have an example to follow. Parents who have children in sports know that attending the matches can be the most fun part of any sports season. Why not make it a family affair? Supporting your player is an amazing boost to family love, unity, and fun.  

There are lots of ways for parents, siblings, teachers, and friends to support children in their sport pursuits. Driving to and from practice, practicing with them at home, and asking how they feel about their progress are all ways to encourage and show support to the player. Attending games goes a long way too. Even if you don’t understand the game, your child will remember the interest you took and the efforts you made to help them. 

Life Lessons 

Sports are a great way to learn vital life lessons. Children are faced with a relatively low- risk struggle (winning the game) that they are able overcome in a safe environment. By learning skills like problem solving, perseverance, and humility, children can take those lessons into higher-risk situations later in their life. 

Some other lessons children may learn include: 

  • Leadership 
  • Teambuilding 
  • How to lose gracefully 
  • How to meet goals 
  • Patience 
  • Perseverance 

Enrolling your children in sports is going to serve them throughout life, even after they have found other interests and may not play sports anymore. Not only will it benefit their physical bodies, but their mental and emotional health is affected positively as well. 

Thinking about coaching your kiddo’s team? Read our blog “Life Lessons I Learned From Coaching Youth Sports.”

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