It is a scientifically established fact that engaging in sports has a lot of health benefits. For youths, involvement in sports not only immediately offers these benefits but also sets them up for long-term love for physical activity – something that can help them throughout their whole lives.
Good physical health can help lower the risk of developing lifestyle-related chronic health conditions such as obesity and associated complications that include diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Participating in youth sports such as mentored youth basketball training offers benefits that cut across all the aspects of good health as defined by the WHO. These include:
- Physical health
- Social wellbeing
- Emotional health
- Educational performance
For some youths who are particularly talented, youth sports can pave the way for them to a career in sports and subsequent economic benefits. Sadly, according to The State of Play 2016, the number of youths participating in sports to a healthy level has experienced an overall downward trend as per data from 2008.
This trend can be reversed if parents and their children are educated in components of physical literacy. With this, it will be possible for all involved to visualize and realize the benefits of participating in youth sports. Five such benefits are discussed below.
1 – Physical Development
Sports help children and youths to develop more muscle bulk and bone mass. These are important for present and future physical undertakings. Strong bones and muscles promote balance and reduce the risk of injuries. One study found that physically active youths reached their peak bone mass earlier than their non-physically active peers.
2 – Helps in Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Obesity is a growing health issue among American children. This predisposes them to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, and joint disorders among many others health disorders. Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of such an outcome.
3 – Promotes Better Cognitive Skills
According to one study that involved kids from kindergarten to grade four, the author found that physical activity sports promote better academic performance. Other aspects of learning that were positively affected are:
- Improved concentration
- Improved behavior in class
These benefits lay the foundation for attending college and better prospects for a satisfying occupation.
4 – Psycho-Social Benefits
With good coaching skills, youths who participate in sports develop positive social and psychological skills and behavior. These include:
- Better self-esteem
- Leadership skills
- Promotes fair-play
- Goal-setting and working towards achieving them
- Lower risk of suffering from depression
- Lower incidence of engaging in early sexual activity
- Less likely to use drugs
- Promotes teamwork to problem solution
- Lower risk of suicide
5 – Prepares the Youth for Bigger Life Challenges
Practicing and playing in particular sports demands perseverance. Field conditions are usually tough but a youth who overcomes this is more likely to overcome other bigger life challenges later.
Having a mentor is important in helping youths engage in sports. This can be in form of coaches, teachers or volunteer parents. Children of physically active parent are more likely to be physically active than those of physically inactive parents.
It is also important to have the right attitude to youth sports as a parent or coach. Too much emphasis should not be put on the competitive side of youth sports. Instead, parents should help foster a love for the game and build joy in playing the sport that they love. Studies have shown that there needs to be a balance between the amount of effort put into school work and that put into extra-curricular activities. Only then can a youth truly prosper from sports participation, regardless of skill level.
The financial benefit realized when youths engage in sports goes beyond the personal or family level. According to The Lancet Physical Activity Series, the U.S alone can save nearly $30 billion per year in medical expenses. Globally the saving can be almost $70 billion.
- Whitehead 1, M. (2001). The concept of physical literacy. European Journal of Physical Education, 6(2), 127-138.
- Castelli, D. M., Centeio, E. E., Beighle, A. E., Carson, R. L., & Nicksic, H. M. (2014). Physical literacy and comprehensive school physical activity programs. Preventive medicine, 66, 95-100.
- Larson, R. W. (2000). Toward a psychology of positive youth development. American psychologist, 55(1), 170.
- Ferron, F. Narring, M. Cauderay, P.-A. Michaud; Sport activity in adolescence: associations with health perceptions and experimental behaviours. Health Educ Res 1999; 14 (2): 225-233. doi: 10.1093/her/14.2.225
- Smith, R. E., & Smoll, F. L. (1997). Coach-mediated team building in youth sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9(1), 114-132.
- The economic burden of physical inactivity: a global analysis of major non-communicable diseases. Ding, Ding et al. The Lancet , Volume 388 , Issue 10051 , 1311 – 1324
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