The physical benefits of sport and activity are well documented in the media and elsewhere. The World Health Organisation states that the Benefits of Physical Activity for Young People include maintaining a healthy body weight and development of a healthy cardiovascular system leading to increased wellness.
Importantly, contemporary studies also suggest that sport can also have a huge impact on the psychological and social well-being of a child as well as teaching them some extremely valuable life skills too. Blogger Amy Cox provided an overview of the top 10 psychological and social benefits for kids gained and enjoyed through sport…
- Joining a sports team gives kids a sense of belonging and the opportunity to make new friends. Some may even become buddies for life! Getting involved in a sport also gives kids another social circle outside of school. With some sources reporting one in four children being bullied at school, joining a sports team could be a vital and much-needed source of social support.
2. Learning to Lose
- And learning to do it graciously. Bad sportsmanship is an ugly thing. No one likes a sore loser. Of course, there is no harm in being competitive and expressing frustration in a non-aggressive manner. However, losing with integrity to a better opponent is a lot more honourable than throwing tantrums as regularly displayed by certain young Australian tennis players. Which leads us on to the next point quite nicely…
3. Respecting Authority
- Does your child need the occasional extra dose of discipline? Sign them up for a sport. Following set rules, taking direction and accepting decisions is a large part of playing competitive sport and players are often penalised for bad behaviour. With regular interaction with coaches, referees and other players, respecting their elders and listening to their peers is an important skill kids can take from the court or pitch.
4. Controlling Emotions
- As kids grow up, we expect them to learn to control their emotions. Especially the negative ones. In sport, emotions can run high and learning to channel them the right way can be tough for youngsters. A good coach understands that negative emotional stress hurts performance. However, once this piece of wisdom is ingrained, your child will be better equipped to tackle a whole range of other life challenges.
- Many studies suggest that sport and other physical activities can contribute to the development of self-esteem in kids. A pat on the back, a high-five from a friend, or a handshake with an opponent at the end of a match (even if they lost), is all character building for your child. The difficulty however, is to not let their self-esteem become inextricably linked to winning or losing. Instead, the development of self-worth should be calibrated to focus on their effort and enjoyment of the sport. The supportive relationships of coaches and teammates, plus encouragement from parents, can all positively affect the self-esteem of a child. So next time your child plays a game – of anything – ask: “how it did it go?” rather than “did you win?” Even better still ask: “did you enjoy it?”
- For all players, even those who are extremely gifted, practice plays a large role in whatever sport or activity one is involved in. If the adage of practice makes perfect is true, then perfect takes patience. Of course, we should not encourage our kids to judge themselves against perfection, however the message should be: “if you want to get better at something, it is going to take time.” Patience is certainly a worthwhile lesson for kids to learn.
- Similar to patience, the discipline of training and the commitment it takes to pursue a sport is a trait transferrable to many other aspects of life. It is no coincidence that participation in sport is linked to higher academic achievement in school. If your kids put time and effort into getting better at something, and see the results, maybe – just maybe – they will put the same amount of dedication into their studies. No promises there though…
8. Working Together
- “There is no I in team.” “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Whichever clichéd phrase coaches choose to roll out to their teams means nothing unless the team members buy in to it. A team cannot succeed without working together. No matter how good the individual players may be. Communication is key and learning to be part of a team is synonymous with learning to value the effectiveness of teamwork. A useful lesson for kids to carry into adulthood and their future careers.
9. Less Selfish
- Closely tied to teamwork, sports (particularly team sports) are a great platform to teach kids to be less selfish. In sport, kids need to think about what is best for the team. Not themselves. You see it all the time in football among many other sports. A player so often has the opportunity to pass to a teammate for a certain goal, but instead makes the decision to go for personal glory and misses. Egos are not good for team morale or performance. Coaching kids to understand that they can achieve more by being less selfish, is one of the great takeaways of team sport.
- The highs. The lows. The wins. The losses. Sport can often be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. One study found that youngsters who are highly involved in sport are more ‘psychologically resilient’. This is not surprising when sport teaches kids to pick themselves up after a hard tackle or hold their head up high after losing badly and get right back out there next week. Sport is about bouncing back and learning from mistakes. The earlier kids can learn these skills the better.
Overall, the psychological and social benefits of playing sport can help kids become well-rounded, mature adults. So whether it is a team sport or an individual sport like tennis, what your kids can learn goes undoubtedly beyond the physical. There are many avenues to junior sport through the club systems and other providers where kids can develop the above skills and attributes. All of these opportunities undoubtedly have a positive impact on the adult they become.
Australian Sports Camps are one of Australia’s most experienced and professional sport camp providers for children aged 6-16. Their nationwide camps and sports programs are held every school holidays across most capital cities.
With programs delivered by expert coaches and special celebrity guests they have programs for most popular sports including:
Article adapted from UQ Sports Amy Cox – link