Any adult today who played sports as a child will tell you that the time they spent participating in sports had a lasting impact on their lives. And it is why those adults when they became parents, encourage their own kids to play sports when they’re old enough.
The adults who participated in youth sports remember the friendships they made, the lessons they learned about hard work, and the discipline they developed. It’s only natural that they would want to give those same valuable life lessons to their kids.
But beyond wanting to give their children a fun experience, they know that sports will help them build character and that competitive edge that will get them further in life. Here are 4 reasons why kids who play sports tend to do better in life:
Obesity in adulthood is often the result of being overweight in their youth. Through sports, children learn about healthier lifestyles, and because sports is fun for them, they don’t even realize that they are exercising, something many adults dread. Sports keep kids fit and engaging in physical activity starts to become so natural for them that they continue to be well into adulthood.
Teamwork and Leadership
Team sports teach kids how to work well with their teammates. It also brings out the natural leader in them. Later in life when they are working in the real world, the skills that they developed in working together comes into play. A big part of being successful in life and work is being collaborative and working well with others.
Discipline and Resilience
Kids learn self-discipline through goal-setting in sports. They know that to improve their skills or technique, they need to work hard and practice. This helps them build character, particularly when things don’t always go their way and they need to deal with failure. They learn how to pick themselves up and keep going.
Sports teaches kids to not only respect authority figures such as their coaches or game officials, but they learn to respect their teammates, themselves, and rules. They grow up to be adults who recognize that rules or laws are there for a reason. And although competitive enough to drive towards their goals, they respect their superiors and the process it takes to get there.
Another bonus of participating in sports doesn’t apply to all, but it is worth mentioning. Sports can give your kids that competitive edge by improving their chances of getting into college through scholarships. Because participating in sports may be their shot at getting into the college of their choice, they are less likely to drop out of school or engage in delinquent behavior.
In the past years, the participation by girls in sports has increased at all levels – youth, high school, college, professional, and Olympic.
The acceptance of female athleticism by society seems to be on the rise. However, it’s been observed across many youth leagues that the rate at which girls drop out is significantly high compared to boys especially when they hit puberty.
Catherine Sabiston, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, followed more than 300 girls between 14 and 18 years old to explore the relation between their involvement in sports and their body-related emotions. Did how they felt about their appearances have a positive or adverse effect on their likelihood to enroll in sports or engage in physical activity?
Sabiston’s study covered two seasons, and during just the first phase of her study, 6% of the girls dropped out.
“Self-consciousness related to the body is one of the key reasons why girls drop out of sport during adolescence as their bodies are changing,” Sabiston explains. “It starts as early as 10. We need to help more at that level, as girls are going through body transitions.”
Girls at this age group have a tendency to compare their bodies with their peers leading to negative emotions that influenced their confidence in their abilities. This distorted perception lead to poor performance and feeling anxious about sports in general.
At this age, girls are most sensitive about their weight and appearance and yet choose to leave the activity that guarantees will keep their bodies in peak condition and at the ideal weight. It has been observed that beyond girls’ insecurities over their bodies, the following also played factors in why they were more likely to drop out of sports:
Society leads them to believe that sports are unfeminine
Despite the significant shift in mentality by society when it comes to women in sports, the cultural view is still that sports are masculine. And most girls don’t want to be associated with anything that makes them appear less feminine because this is the age where girls and boys alike start enjoying the attention of the opposite sex. Naturally, girls don’t want boys to see them participating in an activity that makes them appear unfeminine or unattractive.
Girls are more inclined towards cooperation than competition
Girls going through puberty are experiencing a surge in estrogen levels. This leads girls to shift towards relationships and to stay connected. Sports, on the other hand, is about competition and because girls are keen on meaningful connections, they start to move away from struggles and rivalries particularly ones that are on the physical level.
The lack of positive female athlete role models
In professional sports, there are few female athletes for young girls to idolize. The reality is that the focus is still on male athletes as the most popular sports are still dominated by males. Even with the existence of female leagues, there is much less attention and exposure. Because of this, young girls start to pull away from sports by their teens when they start to see less of a future in it.
And because only 15% of youth coaches are women, there are simply not enough female authority figures in sports to keep young girls inspired and motivated towards a long-term relationship with sports.
Youth sports isn’t just about getting exercise and winning trophies. While winning games and playing hard can accomplish both of these tasks, and both can have positive effects on a child, seeing youth sports as being only about success and physical health is a very narrow view of youth sports. It’s not often discussed how participation in youth sports can help a child mentally as well as physically.
One very large aspect of being involved with youth sports is teamwork. Children learn how to work together and work off of one another when they’re put in an environment where they have to, like on a soccer field or during a football game. They also want to see their team succeed and they know that this is much more likely when they work with each other to win.
However, another big component of youth sports psychology focuses on work ethic. When they’re part of a team, children are taught skills that help them become hard workers – both off AND on the field.
Work Ethic and Sports
The correlation here is obvious – kids that put the effort in to become better and work well with others will succeed at bettering themselves. Will they be the best? Possibly not. But youth sports help to teach children that you don’t always have to be the one holding the trophy to succeed. Sometimes just getting better than you were the week before is considered success as well.
Children accomplish this through diligence, perseverance and responsibility. Both coaches and parents play a part in fostering this mentality both on the field and at home. League officers should work together to bolster these important lessons throughout practices, games and possible tournaments.
How This Translates to School and Other Areas
While many of the lessons learned during youth sports are specifically about the sport itself, there’s definitely an overarching impact. Part of this is youth sports being a vehicle for teaching children how to push themselves and handle both their successes and failures.
It’s been proven that youth athletes are more likely to succeed in school, and this is partially due to work ethic. Students learn to push themselves and try hard on the field, so it makes it easier for them to do the same off the field. Youth athletes learn diligence to keep up with practice and stick to their goals when they play sports, and this can also translate to being responsible enough to do their work on time and save playtime for later.
Outside of school, youth sports help teach children to work hard at home and in other areas of life. Because they’re used to working hard on the field, children who grow into teens looking for work may find that jobs are easier for them because they’ve already had a lot of practice following orders, committing to schedules and following through with tasks.
All in all, youth sports bring many benefits into a child’s life. It’s always critical that children remain healthy during their formative growing years, but this doesn’t just speak to their bodies – it also speaks to their minds.