Sports have so many benefits. Experts recommend that you expose your kids to a wide variety of sports. Lisa and Patrick Cohn, cofounders of Kids’ Sports Psychology, emphasize that kids trying lots of different sports boosts their skills and creates a more rounded sportsperson. Different sports also expose kids to other peers and situations and can prevent burnout or repetitive strain injuries.
You may have a negative perception of sports as just for jocks. But sports is so much more than that for kids. Read on to learn more about the myriad of ways in which your kids can benefit from participating in organized youth sports.
Benefits of organized youth sports
In the US, youth sports are very successful when measured by participation rates. They have increased in popularity as play has transformed from a child-led activity to an adult-driven or organized pursuit.
- Mastery of skills. Competition and winning are not always the focus in youth sports, but rather the development and mastery of skills. Aspects of competitive sport should only come later as they practice and master the skills. Parents may enroll their teens in youth sports because they’d like them to learn about sports without the stress that competitive performance can cause.
- Learning their strengths. As your child learns about different sports and begins to practice the skills required to participate in these sports, they’ll be able to figure out where their strengths lie and what they enjoy.
- Lifelong love of physical activity. Kids who partake in various sporting activities find that physical activity becomes a part of their daily lives and provides them with enjoyment.
- Bring people together. It doesn’t matter what your nationality, race, religion, or socio-economic status are in the sports field.
- A sense of belonging. Kids who play team sports or represent a school or club in their individual sport have a strong sense of belonging. This boosts their self-esteem and positions them among their peers.
- Measuring progress. Kids can measure their progress against their previous ability and that of their teammates. Having tangible measures of progress can serve as motivators to persevere and to try even after failing.
- Boundaries. Many kids benefit from boundaries that organized sport provides. Children know what the rules are and what’s expected of them. Kids who accept boundaries and regulations in the sports field also tend to respect authority and rules elsewhere.
- Opportunities for leadership or mentorship. When playing sports, children with natural leadership abilities often come to the fore. Every child has the opportunity to mentor or assist other players who are still learning or struggling with certain competencies.
- Cooperation and collaboration. Your kids have the chance to collaborate and cooperate. It’s an excellent opportunity to realize that everyone has different skills or talents and that working together is beneficial. Playing in a team teaches kids the importance of working together and supporting one another.
- Delayed gratification. Kids learn that success is not always instant or easy. Hard work, consistent effort, and determination are important for their success. They also get to learn the value of perseverance.
- Inclusivity. Sports programs that include children with special needs or disabilities also further promote acceptance and inclusivity.
Physical and health benefits of sports
Physical activity is not only healthy in the short term but also in the long term. Being physically active has numerous mental health and social benefits. Children who regularly participate in sports or other physical activities have a reduced risk of heart disease and osteoporosis as they age.
Many sedentary activities compete with children’s time for physical activity. As technology advances, kids spend more time watching TV, playing digital or online games, using the internet, and accessing social media. Balancing these sedentary activities with free play and organized sports can be a challenge.
These are some of benefits of kids participating in activities that require movement:
- Increased cardiovascular fitness. Good heart health ensures proper functioning of the whole body.
- Healthy growth of bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Both the skeletal system and soft tissues in the body rely on physical activity for strength and growth.
- Reduced risk of obesity. Embracing a more sedentary lifestyle means that more people (including children) struggle to maintain a healthy weight. A physical and active lifestyle leads to body awareness and also encourages kids to have healthy eating habits. However, participating in extreme physical activity or getting obsessed with exercise, or restricting food intake may cause concern. Consult a doctor to exclude the possibility of your child having an eating disorder.
- Improved coordination and balance. Sport and activity develop the core muscles and fine motor control, which they need for good coordination and balance.
- Improved sleep. Participating in regular exercises improves the quality of sleep.
- Mood regulation. Regularly exercising reduces the prevalence of anxiety and depression. When the sport is highly competitive or when your child is exceptionally competitive by nature, experienced coaches and sports psychologists should mitigate the risk of mental health pressures.
- The ability to relax. Physical activity encourages relaxation, reducing the risk of both physical muscle tension and emotional stress and anxiety.
- Help maintain healthy vision. Children who spend time playing outdoors, especially those engaged in sports, may be less likely to develop vision problems. Their eyes are engaging in both far and near distance focus.
Benefits of sports in child development
Physical fitness is one benefit of sports, but it’s by no means the most important. Here are some significant benefits of sports for kids and how they affect their development as people:
- Develop character and sportsmanship. Sports teach kids about fair play and the importance of rules. Children who are active in sports can serve as role models to their peers in their schools and communities. They learn how to respect authority, treat opponents kindly and with respect, and support teammates.
- Build self-confidence. Being a member of a team builds confidence and provides a feeling of being valued.
- Provide opportunities for success and failure. Sports teach kids how to both win and lose graciously in a safe environment. Losing also teaches resilience and perseverance and encourages them to try despite the risk of failure.
- Aid academic performance. Studies show that children involved in sports or other physical activities perform better in school. This may be due to both the physical benefit of sports as well as the mental health benefits.
- Promote mental well being. Participating in sports can reduce stress levels, provide a sense of belonging, and serve as a physical outlet for negative emotions.
- Encourage self discipline. Sports create environments where your kids learn how to be prepared, responsible, and committed.
- Improved social skills. Children can bond over a common cause or interest and build strong peer relationships, often with kids they wouldn’t have otherwise met.
- Improved personal skills. Children have the chance to practice their leadership skills, try new things, test their physical and emotional limits, learn to deal with conflict, and how to cope with failure. This, in turn, builds resilience.
Benefits of team sports
Team sports are so much more than physical benefits. They are also a great way to develop lifelong skills that will take them beyond the field.
- Team sports offer a fantastic opportunity to learn a host of soft skills. Soft skills are the traits, characteristics, and attributes needed for ongoing success. Being part of a team means your child learns to work alongside different people with different skill levels and personality types.
- Team sports also foster mentorship and provide tangible role models. Kids who participate in team sports learn how to make fast and decisive choices and anticipate what their teammates will do.
- Being a part of a team means having to take individual and collective responsibility and learn that a bad decision (for example, being late for practice) will affect many people.
- Respecting others, making decisions for the good of the team, and being accountable for your actions all lead to maturity and responsibility.
How can individual sports positively affect social health?
Not all sports are team sports. Many sports are played individually, but they can still positively influence children’s social health.
In individual sports, kids may still be a part of a team or belong to a sports club even if they compete individually. Belonging to a team provides a sense of purpose. They learn to get along with other team members, even if they sometimes have to compete against one another. They also learn to respect their opponents.
Individual sports often require a lot of focus and there are no other team members who can compensate for shortcomings. Therefore, children learn their strengths and weaknesses and develop a good sense of self and a positive attitude. In individual sports, children learn how to communicate with their peers (competitors) and their coaches.
How coaches help your kids
One of the most significant benefits of organized sports is that children can receive instructions from experts and specialists. This allows children to build skills and competencies required for specific sporting codes safely. Qualified coaches who correctly understand children’s physical and cognitive development can then guide them towards developing fundamental skills in an orderly and developmentally appropriate manner.
These coaches can make sure that your kids aren’t expected to be competent in ways their body isn’t developmentally ready for. A successful coach will instill the physical skills required to participate in a specific sport and pay attention to your child’s social and emotional development.
Encouraging your child to participate in organized sports
All children are unique, with each child having their own gift and talent. Team sports may not be for everyone. Ensure your kids have the opportunity to try as many physical activities as possible over some time until they find an activity that suits them.
It’s also important to remember that joining a sports club or team is a commitment not only to the child but also to the team. Therefore, encourage your kid to give a sport a fair chance (at least a season) before deciding whether or not they like it. Suppose your child is obviously distraught, or it’s immediately apparent that they don’t have the skills or level of development required to master a sport. In that case, they shouldn’t be forced to continue.
Another way to encourage your child’s interest in sports is to lead by example. Be physically active yourself and incorporate physical activity into your family routine. Where possible, be physically present when your child participates in organized sports to support their efforts. Set limits on sedentary activities and have screen-free time to provide opportunities for kids to become physically active.
Remember that our ultimate goal should be a healthy and balanced child. As parents, we have the chance to encourage movement in all its forms, whether it is sports or simply free play. By providing all of these opportunities, our kids will hopefully find the sport or activity that keeps them active, engaged and involved through childhood and into adolescence and adulthood.