Kids these days are becoming more sedentary than ever as technology takes over their time and attention. Today’s children are more likely to spend their after-school time playing on their Xbox or iPad rather than playing handball in the street or football at the park. Enrolling your child in a sport is a great way to encourage them to put the technology down and be more active – and this has a huge range of benefits for them, both now and in the future.
Childhood obesity is edging its way towards epidemic levels in Australia, and is attributed to inactivity and poor eating habits. Playing sports helps kids to stay physically active, and will help strengthen their bones and muscles and develop coordination, balance and posture. Improving health and wellness in children is extremely important, not just for when they are young but also for later in life.
Sport is a great means of promoting a healthy lifestyle, and kids who play sport as a young child are more likely to carry this interest into adulthood and make exercise part of their lifestyle. As well, kids who play sport are more likely to make healthier food choices, as they need healthy food in order to perform well. This bodes well as they progress into adulthood, and often leads to fit and active adults with fewer health problems.
Playing sport helps kids develop confidence in their abilities and can boost self-esteem. There is often no greater feeling for a child than playing a role in their team’s success, or doing well at their individual sport. Seeing their hard work and dedication pay off, and receiving positive reinforcement and encouragement from parents, teammates and coaches will all help kids believe in themselves and their abilities – skills which will often translate to other areas of life. Learning to take constructive criticism from coaches is another important skill that will benefit kids in the long-term, and enable them to be confident in improving their abilities.
Let’s face it – if kids weren’t involved in sports, what would they be filling their time with? There’s a good chance they would be spending their time fighting with their siblings, driving their parents crazy, hanging out with friends, getting into trouble through boredom, or glued to their screens. Studies have shown that kids who participate in sport are much less likely to drop out of school and do drugs. The safe and structured environment provided by organised sports allows kids to put their time and effort into something productive, rather than destructive.
Learning to communicate and interact with others is one of life’s most important skills, and it can be best learned in team sports. Kids have to interact with other kids and adults on a regular basis, which helps them learn positive ways of communicating and interacting. This will stand them in good stead as they get older. Even the shyest kids can learn social skills without even realising it by playing team sports. Kids can also learn from each other, and learn how to appreciate and work with other people.
Engaging in sports exposes your child to a whole new range of potential friends, who are likely to have a lot in common. It’s important for kids (and anyone) to have a strong network of social contacts to support them, and sport is a great way to make friendships that may last a lifetime. Loneliness is considered a rising problem in today’s world, and sport can counteract that by giving kids regular contact with teammates who often become good friends. When you participate in team sports you practice and work together and go through a lot with your teammates, which creates a bond that few other activities can match. Sports can provide kids with a strong sense of belonging.
Working towards a collective team goal is an important part of team sports, and kids will learn the importance of each individual effort towards team success. Through playing sports, they learn how to share, how to encourage and motivate their teammates, how their actions affect others and how to work as a team – all extremely important life skills.
If you think sport will distract your child from focussing on their studies, you’d be mistaken. Plenty of recent studies have shown that sport and exercise can actually have a direct positive influence on success at school and university studies. This is quite logical, as participation in exercise gives kids more energy and helps them think more clearly and creatively. Sport sharpens your focus, enhances your mood and can help improve your memory. Kids learn to take instruction better through sports, meaning they will learn and improve quicker in all areas of life. Exercise also improves blood flow to the brain, increasing children’s ability to learn.
Sports teaches kids how to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves, and that life is not all about them. The level of commitment required by sports is high. When you sign up to a sport, you need to go to practice every time, not just when you feel like it. Kids learn that people are relying on them and they need to be reliable and dependable. Participation in sport requires hard work, discipline and commitment, which is great practice for life in the work force.
Sport is great at teaching kids how to be teammates and buddies, how to be brave and how to be good sports, whether winning or losing.
Through sport, kids learn to challenge themselves and push through adversity, even when they are tired, frustrated or sore. As we all know, life is full of adversity, so learning to deal with it early is going to be helpful. Everyone makes mistakes and has ups and downs, and how well you handle these situations can directly affect your quality of life. Learning resilience helps kids bounce back from the setbacks they will inevitably face in life and grow into adaptable and confident adults. They will also learn to be comfortable outside their comfort zones.
Playing competitive sport can lead to a whole world of opportunities, from travel to meeting famous athletes, and even to future careers. All these opportunities are wonderful and memorable experiences for kids, and lead to better rounded personalities with greater perspective and maturity.
Playing sports teaches your kids how to win and lose with grace, as it’s something they will have to face on a regular basis. In every competitive sport there will be a winner and a loser, and kids need to learn that losing is not the end of the world. Kids who do sport eventually come to understand that if you lose, you need to work harder – which is a trait many employers will find valuable in years to come.
Kids who sit all day lose the chance to release all that pent-up energy. Sport gives kids a positive way to release that energy, rather than using it in a destructive way.
It has been said that exercise is one of the most effective anti-depressants – and the most underused. Stress, anxiety and depression are the plague of modern youth, with levels of these mental health issues at all-time highs. Sport helps kids loosen up and let go of what’s bothering them by giving them something else to focus on. It also releases endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that counteract depression. Being part of a team also ensures that kids develop bonds with their teammates and have a support system around them, and prevents loneliness and isolation.
Life is full of situations where kids have to compete, and the sooner they learn to do it effectively, the better. It’s a competitive world out there, and the most successful people know how to be competitive. Being afraid or unwilling to compete will often lead to poorer outcomes for kids in the long run. Being competitive isn’t just about trying to be better than other people, it’s also about learning to better than you were yesterday – a journey of continual improvement. Sports are the ultimate way to prepare kids for the competitive world they will have to face on a regular basis.
Goal setting and success go hand-in-hand. Participation in sport gives kids a fun and practical way to learn how to set and achieve goals. When kids achieve their sporting goals, they learn that they can achieve any goal they set with hard work.
Sport is great at teaching kids that success and rewards come from hard work. Kids can learn so many life lessons from sport, which they can then apply in other aspects of their lives.
Adding extracurricular activities, particularly at higher levels of competition, means your kids will need to learn time management and prioritisation skills. They will need to manage training, games, school, homework, part time work, social engagements and sleep, so will need to find ways to handle all their responsibilities. This is a great skill to have moving forward in life, and often hard to teach, so if kids can learn it themselves through sport, it’s a win-win.
An often-overlooked reason to participate in sport is just because it’s fun! Kids enjoy the high they get from learning new skills and participating in competitions and games, and the memories they make will last a lifetime.
Sport is one of the most important things any child needs to stay physically and mentally healthy – both while they are young and when they reach adulthood. Sport provides numerous opportunities for positive experiences for kids and teaches a whole range of valuable skills. Getting your child involved in a sport will help them to be happier, healthier and more successful – and with so many different sports available, your child is sure to find something they will enjoy.