School and sports have long had a connection in America and there’s good reason why: sports helps to make better students. The lessons kids learn on the field help them to excel in the classroom. By getting a child involved in youth sports, you can help them make a dramatic change for the better when it comes to their school lessons.
Practice Makes Perfect
Success in sports is due in some part to natural talent, but as any athlete will tell you it’s really about dedication to practice. To be top of your game and dominate the field, you’ve got to put in the hours honing your skills, building muscle memory, and conditioning yourself for extended play. Practice on the field can directly apply to the classroom in the form good study habits. As children see that practice helps their game, they’ll connect the dots and figure out that studying makes the grade.
Playing by the Rules
The rules of any game are what define it. Without the rules, and the structure and limitations they provide, any sport would fall apart. Learning the code of a game leads to respect of that code. You follow the code and you don’t cheat. This reinforces honorable behavior elsewhere as well, including the classroom. Kids who play sports know that if you want to truly get ahead, you don’t cut corners. Sure, you might win the game if you cheat, but it’s an empty victory. Sure, you might pass the test if you cheat, but you didn’t really learn anything, did you?
Plans and Plays
Good athletes rely heavily on their strength and dexterity, but the best athletes exercise and employ their most important tool: their ability to strategize. The ability to use strategy and create plans helps in the classroom as well, making a competent student a great one. By employing test taking strategies, a student can pass a test they may have otherwise failed or ace a test they may have otherwise only passed. When the difference between planning and not planning is an entire letter grade, it definitely pays to employ some strategy.
A competitive spirit is a drive to win, to come out on top. Kids that participate in youth sports often develop a healthy sense of competitiveness. And that’s a good thing. While you don’t want to be consumed by competition (having a desire to win above all else and feeling crushed when you don’t), a competitive spirit can help a person in all aspects of and at any point in their life. By participating in the competitive, yet low stakes, arena of youth sports, a child can cultivate that beneficial spirit of competition that can serve them well later on in whatever they do.
Competition Forces Confrontation
The ability to directly confront a problem is invaluable. Whether squaring up to what we perceive as a better player or team on the field to hashing out a disagreement with a friend or family member to navigating an uncomfortable scenario at work, confrontation allows an individual to surmount their difficulties.
Not only must we learn to confront our challenges head on, but competitive environments, like youth sports, help to teach a person to manage their nerves and deal with stress. Sometimes to get through a tough match you’ve got to get ahold of your doubts and fears and push them out of the way. This same skill can help with tests, interviews, and presentations.
Competition Demands We Bring Our A Game
Regardless of the competition’s context, the strive to come out on top demands that we do our best. Excellence proceeds from strife and competition is the definition of strife. The challenges that arise in youth sports allow for a kid to practice and to overcome difficult situations by applying themselves to the task at hand. Excellence is often achieved through dedication and focus.
Taking Calculated Risks to Reach Our Goals
Sometimes the way forward in life boils down to taking a risky opportunity. A competitive spirit gives us the courage to go for a risk while the structure of youth sports helps a person to learn how to calculate whether that risk will help to achieve their short and long term goals. When risks don’t pan out in a soccer game, for instance, the stakes are low and a lesson can be learned. Later on, this helps a person to understand what risks are safe relative to the goal they wish to achieve.
The health benefits of youth sports are obvious, but did you know how far-reaching and deep-rooted some of them are? Kids who get a chance to participate in youth sports benefit from the experience for years to come, sometimes for the rest of their lives. While the benefits are myriad, here are the top 4 that can really make a longterm difference in the life of a child.
1. Weight Control & Physical Development
Children these days often have poor diets, especially kids from underprivileged households: processed and packaged foods that are high in fats and sugars and fast food that’s lacking in nutrition with super-sized portions. While this is a problem all on its own, participation in youth sports can at least treat the symptom if not the disease, so to speak. Physical exercise can help counteract a poor diet and control weight, which in turns helps to reduce the risk of health complications later in life.
Not only is there the immediate benefit of weight loss to take into account, but sports also aid in physical development during the crucial years of puberty. Multiple studies across the years have all shown a positive correlation between sports participation and an increased resistance to physical injury, stronger muscles and bones, and better future physical development to adults who pursued athletics as children and teenagers.
2. Endurance & Perseverance
It’s no surprise that physical activity, like the kind that youth sports provide, helps to build cardiovascular endurance. Which is a pretty big deal. Heart disease tops the list of killer diseases in the United States, so improving heart health is just about the most important thing you can do for yourself health-wise. Besides the physical angle, there’s also mental perseverance. A match, no matter the sport, is a quick series of adverse situations, one after the other. It’s training kids to handle high-stress , rapid-fire scenarios in a safe, constructive, and low-stakes environment. Perseverance is crucial for coping with higher-stake situations later in life, as well as critical thinking and problem solving.
3. Stress Management
Underprivileged youth often have multiple sources of stress to contend with on a daily basis. Stress is often what drives them to make bad decisions, so any method that can help them to cope with stress is invaluable. Sports can create stressful situations, but these situations are structured within the game itself and are swiftly resolved by the end of the match. By putting kids into sports, it helps them to view the other challenges in life in such a way that they are able to segment and partition causes of stress into manageable bits. Each challenge becomes a hurdle to overcome instead of an insurmountable wall in their path.
4. Social Development
Sports teach children more than how to play a game. Sports participation helps children develop social skills that they may not be learning at home, and they can carry those lessons with them throughout life. Kids who play sports learn to interact with others, how to respect authority figures (such as coaches and sports officials), team-building skills, leadership skills and a clearer understanding of winning and losing (and how to cope with losses). The skills learned through sports can help kids with personal relationships and careers later in life.
Unstructured recreation time is definitely an important part of childhood, but too much of it can make a kid or teen aimless. Not to mention, they’ll miss out on a lot of benefits if they never participate in a sport or club. Whether school’s in session or it’s summer break, it’s important to give children an outlet that keeps them occupied. Here’s why sports are the best after-school or summertime activity.
Structure is King
The biggest reason why after-school sports are so beneficial to students is that they provide structure to the day. Even when school is out for summer break, sports are important, maybe even more so. Unstructured playtime has its place and is valuable in its own way, but too much of it can be a negative thing. Unstructured time in moderation allows for exploration, reflection, creative development, and imagination. Unhampered unstructured time can devolve into idleness, troublemaking, and experimentation due to boredom. Participating in a sport extends the structure that the school day provides or substitutes for it during summer break. While unstructured time is vital to normal childhood development, there’s only so much that’s needs.
Activity Burns Energy
When it comes to succeeding in school, the only thing more important than studying is sleeping. A good night’s sleep and a regular sleeping schedule are vital to learning new things, retaining what you learned, and performing well during tests. In order to get a good night’s sleep every night, discipline is important for setting up a sleeping schedule, but nothing beats a kid who had an active day. Sports help to burn off extra energy that can keep a kid antsy in the evening and prevent them from falling asleep or getting into restful deep sleep.
Athletes Are Better Students
While it’s sometimes assumed that athletes make for inferior students because they’re distracted by their sport, studies have shown that children who participate in a sport, whether through their school or an outside organization, actually make better students than their peers who don’t participate. This has been chalked up in large part to not just the structure and positive outlet for energy that sports provide, as previously mentioned, but to the discipline inherent in keeping in shape, cooperating with a team, and taking constructive criticism from a coach. These translate directly into the classroom, allowing an athlete the discipline to keep their mind sharp through study, work better during group assignments, and to pay better attention to teachers during lectures and one-on-one tutoring.
Participation in youth sports is good for an individual child or teen, but it’s also a win for the greater good. Youth sports enrich a community by edifying the cornerstone of any community: youths. By helping to engage kids in their surroundings, keep them out of trouble, and build them into respectable role models themselves, it’s easy to see why sports are so important.
Sports Drive Community Engagement
Sporting events bring a community together like nothing else. If a child is participating in that event, they’re at the center of attention. A sporting event allows many kids and teens to take their first step into the community through their involvement, and there’s no telling where that engagement will end. What’s likely, however, is that once they get a taste of being part of the community, they’ll be interested in more. From continuing to participate in youth sports to volunteering their time at community events, youth sports can help to foster community engagement.
Young Athletes Make Model Citizens
If kids are involved in sports, it helps to make them better citizens to their local communities. For starters, sports eat up time that might otherwise be spent in directionless boredom. As anyone who has kids can attest, kids get into varying degrees of trouble when boredom strikes. While boredom may manifest itself in harmless ways, there’s always the risk that a child or teen can get into real trouble, the kinds of which can be hard to walk back out of. By providing a positive outlet for attention and energy, sports can stave off boredom, provide direction, and keep kids on the right path.
Youth Sports Put Kids in Touch with Role Models
Participating in youth sports puts kids under the supervision of people who care and who can provide more than just drills. Coaches and the like are volunteers who are there to provide guidance and advice, not to mention a receptive ear when a kid or teen has a problem they can’t solve on their own. Having these role models can, in turn, inspire kids to become role models themselves. It’s a positive, self-sustaining cycle that can help to enrich any community with people who care about the people around them.
It’s absolutely no secret that sports help to develop the body. Regular exercise leads to better cardiovascular health, stronger muscles and bones, and more resistance to disease. But did you know that sports can help foster the development of a healthy brain as well?
Thinking Outside the Box
Tough situations call for creative solutions. Sporting events create a number of dynamic, unforeseeable events that the brain must navigate. By participating in sports, a young athlete must consistently think outside the box to outmatch their opponent. Sports can look effortless and straightforward from the stands, but on the field it’s a mental game where the most cunning and creative athlete usually comes out on top.
Confidence in Decision-Making
Games, regardless of the particular sport, can be seen as a series of rapid-fire moments, each one carrying a micro-decision that has to be made nearly instantaneously. Do I pass the ball? Do I go left or veer right? Can I throw the ball that far? Can I make that goal? Each time an athlete makes a decision on the field, it’s part quick thinking and gut instinct, analyzation combined with experience. This is an exhausting mental workout on level with critical thinking. It’s training a kid’s brain to run faster, more efficiently, and even more decisively. After a few months of sports participation, parents and guardians notice that their child or teen is more confident in making decisions and solving problems faster than ever.
Learning the Ins & Outs of Social Interaction
Nobody is born with an innate sense of social interaction. Sure, there’s roughly an equal percentage of people who are introverts and extroverts, but being the latter doesn’t mean that you know how to interact with people, just that you enjoy it. As to the former, shyness can be overcome with a nudge in the right direction. By participating in youth sports, kids can train on social interaction and learn what works and what doesn’t, which makes them better communicators. Communication is key to healthy development, whether it’s used in school, work, or personal life.
School is where your kids go to learn about math, science, and history, but we all know that there’s more to making a well-rounded adult than just hitting the books. There are some life lessons that kids can learn best by participating in sports, lessons that can shape who they become and affect how far they go in life. So just remember, when a child takes to the field for a game of soccer, baseball, or football, there’s more happening than just the back and forth of the match.
Seize Your Opportunities
This harks back to the old adage of carpe diem. Seize the day. When you recognize a chance to succeed or to advance, don’t hesitate. Act decisively and go for it. This applies as much to stealing a base as it does to snagging a scholarship or a job opportunity later in life. Identify your possibilities and recognize the potential inside yourself to achieve them.
Commit to Your Decisions Fully
This ties in with seizing your opportunities. Once you make a decision, pursue your goal with conviction and focus. To do otherwise is to sabotage your efforts. Anyone who’s played a sport knows that if you don’t fully commit to an action, that action is likely doomed to failure. It’s when we put everything we have into making a critical play that we can critically succeed.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Once you’ve identified an opportunity and committed to its pursuit, you’ve got to have the devotion and discipline to see it through. It’s one thing to recognize what you have to do, another to take steps to achieve it, and yet another thing to see it done. Seeing something through to completion, keeping your eye on that ball, that prize, is what separates high achievers from everyone else. Keeping your eye on the ball means that you more often than not successfully catch it, and the same can be true of those who are focused on their life goals.
While this may come as no shock, kids that participate in youth sports learn and practice healthy living standards, standards that can oftentimes follow them for their entire lifespan. These traits can help make the difference in helping a child reaching their full potential later in life.
Sports Help Foster an Active Lifestyle
Obviously participating in a sport means that you’re active, but the habit of being active lasts longer than being on the field… or even being a child or teen. If a person is involved in sports during their formative years, they’re much more likely to lead an active lifestyle. Whether that means playing in college or simply jogging several times a week in adulthood, getting up and active is something that sticks with most kids. This means that they lead longer and healthier lives, regardless of what kind of exercise they later partake in.
Sports Teach You How to Eat Better
Not only do sports promote activity, but they help kids to learn healthy eating habits. If you want to perform your best on the field, you’ve got to take your game to the kitchen by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and drinking milk. Junk food can only carry you so far when you’re trying to perform during a match. Kids who play sports and eat junk food one day versus a healthy meal the next will feel immediate differences in how they perform and will likely learn the lesson that if you put good in, you’ll get good out.
Sports Instill Discipline
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from youth sports is the sense of discipline that it can instill in a child. Discipline is a virtue from which many good things grow. Having the discipline to focus and manage your time can translate into a better ability to study and learn. Having the discipline to work hard and save money can lead to an ability to manage finances and get what you need. Having the discipline to control your emotions or urges can lead to better life decisions in any situation. Participating in youth sports may be all a child needs to develop a life-long habit of discipline.
In even a friendly game of soccer or baseball, someone’s got to win and someone’s got to lose. Even without stakes, even with nothing on the line, the clock is going to run out and one team is going to have a higher score. Most every child that participates in youth sports has been on both sides of the field when it comes to victory and defeat.
And that’s a good thing. Both winning and losing teach valuable lessons to those who reflect on them, lessons that can be carried into adulthood and applied to anything: higher education, a career, even family dynamics. It’s not so much if you win or lose, but how you win or lose. There’s grace to be had in either. In losing, kids can learn to manage their disappointment and instead focus on congratulating their rivals for a game well played and a victory well earned. In winning, kids can learn to manage their pride and to channel it into empathy towards the other team. It comes down to the same thing: you all played the best game possible and what separates the winning team from the losing team is a simple number, not lack of effort or love for the game.
Being on both sides of the field also helps in other ways. If you’ve known defeat, you can appreciate what it is to lose even in your moments of victory. That’s the thing about life. When you win, it oftentimes means that someone else lost out in some way or another. If you’re promoted, someone was passed over. If you’re accepted into a college, another hopeful student was rejected. Knowing this can keep anyone, from a child to an adult, humble and graceful in their moments of victory.
Likewise when you experience setbacks. If you’ve experienced victory before, you know that even when time are tough you can often turn things around merely by keeping a positive attitude, reviewing what went wrong and how you could do things better, and not dwelling on bitterness and disappointment.
Youth sports are invaluable in that they offer these life lessons at a young age in a safe and healthy manner. It’s good to win and even better to lose if you’ve got the right attitude about it.