While the myriad physical benefits sports provide to children are evident, the psychological and social benefits are plentiful as well.
As obesity rates soar for children in America, it is more important than ever to encourage children to participate in physical activity. One popular method of engaging in physical activity is organized sports. From pee-wee soccer to Pop Warner football to t-ball, there are many opportunities for kids to socialize with others and get exercise. It has been shown that highly active children are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer of the colon, obesity, and coronary heart disease later in life.
But sport, not just exercise, gives a child more than just physical well-being; it contributes to a child’s development both psychologically and socially. Sport psychologist Dr. Glyn Roberts of the University of Illinois has worked primarily in children’s sport for the last two decades. He emphasizes that sport is an important learning environment for children. Children learn social cues, friend-making and competition, all skills that will benefit them later on in life.
It is up to parents and coaches to help each child find the sport that they love and excel at. While not every child is athletic in the same way, every child can find a sport that is perfect for them. Multiple studies suggest that children who play sports (especially team sports) end up faring better in life in terms of both financial status and overall happiness than children who did not participate in sports. Children also learn about the importance of sportsmanship, a value that is very important in all aspects of adult life. Not every child needs to be a superstar, however. It is the participation that is key, not necessarily perfection or even excellence.
We should encourage children to engage in physical activities, and support them when they express interest in learning and playing a sport. Their future may depend on it.