Do you leave work and go directly to your child's soccer field? Do you grab dinner on the run most nights, in between gymnastics practice, dance lessons and football games?
Why do so many parents in the United States make kid's sports their second shift?
As the 2012 London Olympics debut and the world gets to watch the dreams of young athletes come true, the joys and triumphs of sports are obvious. Winning and medals aside, however, involvement in sports has real benefits for kids' physical, social, and even moral development. What follows are ten of the best reasons that so many families make sports a priority:
- Promoting Health and Fitness
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control confirm that there is an obesity epidemic amongst America's children. Rates of overweight kids with risk factors for "adult" diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure have tripled since today's parents were children themselves. Regular involvement in sports and physical activity is one of the best ways to promote health and fitness among young people and to fight obesity in today's youth.
- Improving Academics
According to researchers at Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, young people who play sports perform better in school than those who don't. Regular participation in sports teaches kids to focus on a task at hand and to manage their time effectively as they juggle school, sports, and a social life.
- Encouraging Sportsmanship
Kids who participate in sports hone the invaluable skill of winning graciously and losing well. Being able to shake hands with the competition, no matter what the outcome of an event, serves children well into their adult lives. Further, being part of a group and learning to do what is best for the team as a whole is one of the most valuable benefits of sports for young people.
- Providing Positive Peers
Sports can provide an instant social network for kids. For a child who has difficulty finding his niche in school, a team sport may offer much-needed camaraderie and support. Even for young people who have no trouble fitting in, sports offer connections with like-minded peers who are focused on constructive goals.
- Building Self Esteem
Children develop positive self-esteem through accomplishments. Sports give kids opportunities to learn, achieve, and feel good about themselves through skill development and goal-oriented activities. When parents and coaches emphasize effort and improvement over winning or individual performances, they foster healthy self-image and positive self-esteem.
- Teaching Teamwork
Children learn all sorts of valuable social lessons through sports. For younger players, sharing the ball, listening to teammates, and following group rules are fundamentals of good play. Being part of a group and learning to do what is best for the team as a whole is one of the most valuable benefits of sports for young people.
- Working Towards a Goal
Bringing home the championship trophy, winning the tournament, earning a black belt, scoring a perfect 10; most sports feature some sort of "ultimate goal" for kids. Prior to reaching any milestone, however, players must master fundamental techniques and learn specific skills. Sports provide children with invaluable experience in breaking long-term goals into short-term objectives. Life skills such as commitment and perseverance are honed as kids mature beyond needs for instant gratification and work toward goals that demand long hours and hard work.
Related: Mobile Apps for Youth Sports
- Fostering Perseverance
On my daughter's first day of karate, she learned the term, "non-quitting spirit." Four years later, she still uses this term to talk herself through a challenging homework assignment and to encourage her little sister not to give up on riding a two-wheel bicycle. Children who participate in sports face injuries, disappointments, and defeats. Those who learn to take setbacks in stride and dust themselves off for the next round benefit from life lessons in perseverance and persistence.
- Preventing Trouble
What time of day does the majority of youth-crime occur? Most people assume it is under the cover of darkness, but in reality, young people find themselves in the most trouble between the hours of 3-6pm. Participating in sports and being accountable to a group provides young people with constructive, trouble-busting structure and has been shown to reduce criminal mischief, including drug use, among kids.
- Encouraging Fun
Perhaps the least talked about benefit, yet the reason group games originated; sports are meant to be fun! When competition is kept in check and sportsmanship is prioritized, pastimes that involve running, jumping, throwing, catching, diving, scoring, and high-fiving are made for cheering. Kids who know that fun is the name of any game are more likely to sign up to play and commit to a sport over the long haul.
More from GalTime.com:
- Girls & Athletics: The Impact of Olympians on Our Girls
- Top 10 Signs You're Too Wrapped Up in Your Child's Sport
- 5 Concerning Tween Trends
- Is Your Child a Quitter?