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Today we’re going to talk about the different benefits of youth sports for children. As well as the stresses and pressure that they can cause on both parents and kids alike.
If you are the parent of a young child, entering the world of youth sports can feel extremely overwhelming.
The youth sports industrial complex has made a big business out of what used to be a simple world of care-free sports.
Ratcheting up the pressure and making every parent think their child will be set up for failure if they aren’t playing on five travel teams and taking one-on-one lessons with a personal coach from the moment they begin playing.
Youth sports have come to resemble the professional sports leagues that welcome one in a million to their ranks.
Reading that first paragraph, you feel ready to throw in the towel and keep your youngster out of the world of youth sports entirely – especially for the pre-k crowd.
If you keep a level head and approach the experience with a positive, low-key mindset, there are dozens of benefits waiting for your little athlete.
Keep an open mind and allow your child to spread their wings in youth sports, and both parent and child can experience immense personal growth. For many children, playing sports becomes a crucial part of their development, both socially and physically.
The physical benefits of playing youth sports are obvious. By playing sports, children develop body control and an awareness of their movements.
Childhood obesity continues to rise at an alarming rate, but children who begin playing sports at a young age are over 60 percent less likely to become obese later in life.
Learning the value of physical activity and exercise while their brains are still forming allows children to form positive associations with being active. Those healthy habits and a passion for moving can last a lifetime.
Playing youth sports also helps children become stronger and makes their bodies healthier.
Their endurance improves and they are able to run longer and faster and jump higher. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest contributors to poor health, and children must be guided into staying active.
The risk of developing heart disease and diabetes drop dramatically when an active lifestyle is started from a young age.
Children love to run, jump and play – foster that youthful exuberance and channel it through sports and it can set them up for a lifetime of joyful movement.
In this age of screens and constant scrolling and tapping, your child will benefit from as much time on their feet as possible.
The physical benefits of sports for young children are numerous. There are also so many social benefits they can reap by getting involved. Sports teach self esteem and show children that they are able to accomplish many things they set their mind too.
Playing sports also helps children learn to set goals, unlocking huge confidence boosts when they become accomplishments. Sports will allow your child to realize they have many talents and become excited about developing them.
Discipline is also a huge part of being on a sports team, and another benefit of getting your child started as an athlete at a young age.
It’s no secret that many children lack self control and discipline – no fault of their own, it’s hard being a kid!
Sports teach children to follow directions, learn and respect rules and control their emotions.
Something as simple as performing a footwork drill or standing in line waiting for their turn to shoot the ball is actually very important in a child’s development.
Following the structured rules of a game of basketball or soccer is much different from unstructured play time. Both are important, but children’s brains benefit from stability and boundaries.
Team sports also play a key role in helping children develop their ability to share, work together, respect others and make great friendships.
Almost every adult remains friends deep into their grown lives with at least one person they played sports with as a child.
Teamwork and sharing do not always come naturally to children, especially before they start kindergarten. Youth sports teach them to work with others. Everyone has seen the videos of first-time soccer tots all coming together to chase the ball in a giant herd.
Within a year, they’ll be playing a game that much more closely resembles soccer as adults know it thanks to learning how to think like a team instead of a single unit trying to score all on their own every time the ball comes close to them.
A good coach will foster a sense of belonging in his youth athletes, allowing each of them to feel as though they have an important role on the team.
Every child should get a chance to have a leadership role while playing youth sports, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to an adult. Children value feeling as though they bring something important and valuable to the group.
Having a chance to act as a leader among their peers gives children an opportunity to thrive in their own world without having to feel beholden to adults at all times.
Being on a team teaches children how to respect and value their teammates, forming tight social bonds.
In many towns, children will play with the same group for their entire sports career. This allows them to form a sense of community and belonging. Children learn that they must work together with others to win as a team.
A team that works together will often be able to take down a disorganized bunch with one elite star player. Being able to work as a team is an important part of a child’s future as an adult. We must all be able to work in a team setting to do our jobs well.
Communication is also a huge part of playing sports, and children must learn how to effectively relay their desires, plans, feelings and excitement in a mature way.
This can be something as simple as calling for a pass at the right time or pointing a teammate to the right spot while running a play.
Your child may also learn how to effectively express frustration with a teammate in a way that can be constructive for everyone on the team.
Do not forget that sports can be frustrating for players of all ages – how often are we treated to a pair of professional athletes locked in a heated argument on the bench after a bad play?
In addition to communicating with their teammates, children who play youth sports also benefit from developing their ability to talk to adults.
This can be intimidating for young children, but a good coach makes a big difference.
The best coaches treat their young athletes like equals, allowing them to feel valued and important. Children who play sports have better relationships with their teachers and are more comfortable opening up to adults.
Many of the benefits that children experience from playing youth sports can be felt and seen by their parents almost immediately, but there are many longer-term benefits that will be felt later in life.
Children who become involved in sports at a young age and continue to play into adolescence can expect to experience lifelong boosts in their physical wellbeing.
They also perform better academically and have intimate relationships that can only be formed with others while working together to strive for a common goal.
We’ve all been led to believe that our child will one day receive an athletic scholarship to the university of their choosing.
It’s a dream that has become peddled with increasing regularity as the cost of higher education gets out of control, but not realistic for most young athletes.
While playing sports is unlikely to result in a free trip to college for most kids, just getting out there and playing increases there chances of succeeding academically.
Athletes are more likely to stay in school and stay out of trouble.
They also perform better on tests, develop time management skills and go on to graduate college. These are all the types of outcomes we want for our children.
These are the outcomes that matter more than getting a scholarship or playing on an elite travel team. Former athletes are disproportionately represented in upper levels of corporate management and political office.
There’s sadly has been a decline in the participation rates in youth sports. Meaning many children are missing out on the crucial benefits outlined above.
It is a sad trend, but is easily explained by the changing attitudes about youth sports.
For many parents, youth sports have become more about the long-term hope of seeing their child earn a scholarship.
Many are putting unfair expectations on children at an age where they are barely able to think past lunch. Parents must take a step back and remember the true purpose of youth sports.
Participation rates are declining because all of the benefits of youth sports have been discounted in favor of things that benefit parents first and children second.
Too many children who are not elite athletes are turned off by the win-at-all-costs mentality that has become pervasive in the youth sports world.
Children who do not show an immediate talent at a young age are often overlooked or ignored by coaches who are only interested in working with the best of the best.
Ninety percent of children choose to play sports because they want to have fun. Ninety percent!
Having fun needs to be at the forefront of every season of youth sports, but it isn’t. It is the adults who would benefit from reflecting on why children find sports fun.
Here are the reasons that children enjoy playing youth sports:
- They get a chance to do their best
- Being treated like an equal by the coach
- Making friends with teammates
- Playing as a team
- Having a chance to perform
All of those points were touched on in the preceding paragraphs of this post.
Kids have an innate understanding of why they should be playing sports without even being told the answers by adults!
If it’s that easy for children to identify many of the benefits of playing youth sports. Then maybe the grownups should get out of the way and let the children take the lead.
Adults can benefit from watching their children play sports, too.
There is nothing more exciting than watching your child’s face light up when they have success on the field or seeing them improve through consistent hard work or practice.
It is just important to remember not to put pressure on your children to become the next Michael Jordan or Tom Brady. It is your job as a parent to make sure your child is having fun while playing sports, not their job to please you by performing well.
There is not a specific age set in stone for when to get your kids started in youth sports.
It is up to the parent to know their own child’s limitations and maturity.
Some children will be ready as young as two years old, while others won’t have the attention span until they’re much closer to kindergarten.
When a child shows an ability to follow simple directions from adults and can be left alone from their parent for up to an hour, it may be a good time to pick a sport to test out.
Start your kids slowly when you do jump in. A structured gymnastics class is a great way for kids to begin learning to control their movements, follow directions, improve their balance and strengthen their muscles.
We all want to mold our children into successful future adults.
Being involved in youth sports can become a major stepping stone on their path to success.
If you are preparing to introduce your son or daughter to sports, follow their lead. Start slow with a minimally-structured environment where the emphasis is more on learning the basics of a sport than playing full games.
Give it time, allow them to try more than one sport before settling on a favorite and go from there.
You will both benefit from the experience!