There are numerous reasons why parents should encourage their children to participate in sports, both during the school year and with local leagues during the summer. When children participate in sports, they’re able to develop lifelong skills that will continue to impact them time and time again. According to a study conducted in Switzerland, “adolescents who participated in sports clubs had greater well-being, including being better socially adjusted, feeling less anxious, and generally being happier about their lives.”
With that in mind, start preparing to put your children on a sports team, and turn the journey into a fun process. For example, head over to the local soccer field and watch a few games with your kid, teaching them the rules of the sport as they observe. Then, get them excited with a fresh pair of youth soccer cleats, and finally, let them accompany you as you sign them up for a youth soccer league.
No matter what sport they decide to play, there are numerous reasons you should encourage and support it. Here are five:
Improved Social Skills
One of the biggest benefits of youth sports is improved social skills. Learning proper social skills early on is critical for development. Children will need to interact with coaches and other players on a consistent basis, and this also provides them with a sense of belonging. They learn to build friendships will people from all different types of backgrounds, built upon a foundation of a single common interest and duty. Their communication skills will improve as a result. And playing on a sports team isn’t just about being social with other teammates: it’s also about being socially aware.
Learn Discipline and Leadership
Children learn early on that their coaches are in charge of running the show, and need to listen to instructions if they want to perform their best. Coaches help guide them in the right direction, ultimately teaching children the discipline they need to follow rules and understand that their words and actions should fall in line with those rules. This learned discipline will help them throughout their studies and careers.
Sportsmanship refers to the generous and fair behavior and treatment towards others. When children play sports, they learn the value of good sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship is so important because, when it comes to competition, sports can get heated. Something might happen that doesn’t benefit the athlete, and how they conduct themselves on and off the field is a testament to their character.
For example, at a young age, children are taught to give handshakes to the opposing team at the end of every game, regardless of the results. Even if a child experiences a tough loss, they learn to grit their teeth and show respect for the sport and the players.
In 2012, the Louisiana State High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) held its first annual “Beyond the Game” Sportsmanship Essay Contest. It invited high school students in Louisiana to describe what sportsmanship meant to them, and there were many amazing entries. Morgan Richard at Elton High School said, “Sportsmanship is found in every level of every sport. It is the common theme that unites not only the players but the teams; and its effects are felt long after the final whistle blows.”
Learn the Value of Teamwork
Teamwork is critical in sports. They’ll learn at an early age that a team cannot succeed if they don’t work together. They learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and join forces to help each individual become better for the overall group. This is a skill that’s essential for life; as they grow, they’ll find themselves working on group projects in grade school, and later in life, working with coworkers on an important presentation.
Helps Develop Self-Esteem
Playing sports can help boost your child’s confidence and self-image. Author Mina Samuels described how sports helped better her life in her book, Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives: “Over the years that followed my ‘discovery’ of running, my self-confidence grew, and feeding off the accomplishments I achieved in sports—setting new personal bests, winning a little local race, surviving the setbacks of injuries and marathons gone wrong —I discovered a capacity within myself that I never knew I had. I wasn’t just physically stronger than I expected, I thought of myself as a different person, as someone with more potential, broader horizons, bigger possibilities.”
There are many reasons why confidence is increased when children play sports. For starters, words of affirmation are consistently given to them after every game or match, even if they don’t “win.” Great coaches will encourage them, and help build self-esteem that isn’t based on the concept of winning or losing. And it’s not just coaches that contribute to those positive affirmation: parents, teammates, family members, and other players play an important role, too.