The Magic Elixir Called Sports
Physical health is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of sports for kids and teens.
Kids and sports just go together. Whether your children engage in organized competition or old-fashioned play, physical activity feels good and it’s good for them.
The benefits of team sports are many. They provide an opportunity for young people learn to focus and control their emotions; kids learn essential life skills — hard work, patience, persistence, and how to respond positively to setbacks and failure.
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According to Susan Park, MD, Renown Medical Group, team sports teach young folks the power of teamwork to reach a common goal. The exercise helps their mental health, moods and, of course, physical fitness. “Team sports also promote social interaction and development,” continues Dr. Park, who specializes in sports and rehabilitative medicine. “It’s a fun way for young people to make new friends, which promotes self-confidence.”
Creating Good Health Habits
Get your kids involved in sports early and they’re more likely to remain active into adulthood. They’ll enjoy a higher quality of life with improved cardiovascular health, and lower rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. Studies show that youth who participate in sports and exercise regularly have a more positive body image and are less likely to use drugs, alcohol and tobacco. High school female athletes are 80 percent less likely to get pregnant.
Building Brain Power
Participation in endurance sports enhances brain development and actually raises IQ. Kids learn to think strategically and improve their math and motor skills — all from playing sports. Studies have shown that athletes have higher grade point averages, higher standardized test scores, better attendance, lower dropout rates and a better chance of going to college.
Playing with others teaches young people respect — for teammates, coaches and competitors. Playing sports with children from different backgrounds, cultures and religions teaches young ones about diversity. They learn to adapt, empathize, put aside differences and appreciate the unique qualities of others as they work with their peers to build a successful team.
Little Leaguer to CEO
A survey of VPs at Fortune 500 companies revealed that 95 percent were involved in high school sports. While athletics doesn’t guarantee corporate success, the leadership and communication skills, discipline, and patience one develops can only benefit young people in the future. They learn the value of hard work and the satisfaction that comes from setting and reaching goals, making them better prepared to lead at work and in their communities.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
Life isn’t always fair, and playing sports gives kids the opportunity to learn to deal with disappointment. They’re not always going to win. The referee’s call won’t always seem fair. But dealing with setbacks and difficulties builds character and strength. Kids learn to work hard, persevere and endure. And win or lose, they learn to manage their emotions and be a good sport in either situation.
Your children can still reap the social, academic and physical benefits of sports even if they lack the skills to play competitively on a school team. Dr. Park notes that individual sports such as swimming tennis or gymnastics can still teach your children how to set goals for their own individual achievement, which gives them a sense of direction and purpose. Get them involved in a city league or arrange for them to play with friends or a church group.
“In the end, the goal is to have fun while being active to promote life-long health.”