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5 Ways Youth Sports can Boost Mental Health - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

As adults, it's sometimes difficult to remember just how tough it can be to be a kid. Kids today have to deal with a lot in our fast-paced world. Technology has had an enormous impact on kids' well-being, and that can include some negative ways. Bullying is no longer limited to the four walls of the school, and lots of kids spend too much time in front of the screen. Kids are often stressed out and isolated, which can lead to problems later in life.

Playing sports can help kids in several different ways-socially, emotionally, and of course, physically. A child's psychological development is heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including social interaction, home life, and physical activity. Studies have shown that regular exercise during childhood helps children develop better attention and information processing, creativity, and mood. It has also proven to improve academic performance, behavior, and self-esteem.

With all the amazing psychological benefits, it's unfortunate to note that participation in youth sports has dropped in recent years. Why should more kids get involved? Here are 5 great psychological benefits of participating in sports for parents and guardians to consider.

(1) Improved mental health and self-image

Kids are bombarded with unhealthy messages from a young age that can harm their body image, self-esteem, and confidence. Many children are bullied or develop depression and anxiety. Physical activity and being in a supportive team environment helps to improve mental health and can help children, especially girls, develop a healthy body image. Kids often struggle with self-esteem, and team sports can help them feel like an important part of something bigger than themselves.

(2) Being part of a group helps build social skills

Some of the most challenging aspects of growing up are learning to interact with others, making friends, and getting comfortable in new social situations. Team sports from a young age helps kids build connections and friendships. Kids can develop skills in collaboration and social skills, all while learning the value of team efforts. Many children make friendships and connections through team sports that last for decades.

youth basketball game

(3) Having a coach as a mentor is helpful

Parents and teachers are typically the most important adults in a child's life, but a coach can become a mentor and fulfill a very important role as well. A coach is someone new to engage with, someone a child can look up to and ask for help when needed. Coaches help kids push past challenges, develop new skills, and accomplish things they never thought they could. There is enormous value for a child in having a trusted mentor, and a youth sports coach often naturally takes on this role.

coach mentor

(4) Sports build character and confidence

Kids are still busy figuring out who they are -and sports can help. By participating and working through the ups and downs of being on a team, kids build their character. Every loss teaches them valuable lessons about sportsmanship and technique, and every win or great play helps them to become more confident. Kids can even start to develop leadership skills through participating in team sports -skills that will serve them well long term.

(5) Creates discipline and dedication

To excel in sports, you have to show up and give it your all. The dedication kids have to learn to be successful on a team is crucial to almost every aspect of life. Sports help kids develop positive work habits and teaches them how to work toward goals. That discipline will also help them take good care of themselves and develop healthy living habits from a young age, which is especially important as healthcare costs rise.

Lots of Benefits of Playing Youth Sports

While it's always important to ensure a child's safety on a sports team, there are very few downsides to youth sports -and a huge number of benefits. Kids can get on the right track for a healthy, happy life by building skills early on the field or court. With so many psychological benefits, it's important that we realize youth sports are crucial not just for physical health, but emotional and mental health as well.

Articles by Sarah Daren