The Impact of Sports on Young People
It's 2023, and we're probably all suffering from some form of ADD. With information and entertainment at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day, is it really a surprise when young athletes feel compelled to check their cell phones every ten minutes at the gym?
Playing sports is a natural outlet for all of us because they literally get us up and away from the screens that govern our lives. Beyond that, they teach valuable lessons that stay with young people far beyond when the ball stops bouncing. The National Council of Youth Sports estimates that around 44 million youth aged 6 to 18 participate in sports in the US. Approximately 7.9 million students participated in high school sports during the 2019-2020 academic year in the US.
What are they playing?
Statistically, the most popular sports in the US are football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, track, and baseball/softball.
Regardless of the sport, these activities are so good for young people, and we outline the reasons why below.
1. Work Ethic
Sports are competitive, and with competition comes an innate sense to want to be better. Sports teach kids how to practice, work hard, and reap what they sow. The Women's Sports Foundation reports that girls are less likely than boys to participate in sports, and that the gap widens as they get older. It's important, then, to encourage girls to play if they have an interest.
All of us will work with other people the rest of our lives. Playing sports forces kids to learn how to get along with others, how to work together to achieve a common goal, and how to encourage other people. Being on a team with people that you don't know also forces you to get to know people that are different than yourself. I've always said that socioeconomics go out the window the minute the whistle blows on the court or field.
How easy is it in today's culture to give up on something when it gets hard? Sports naturally lend themselves to being committed. When you have teammates, the commitment goes beyond just yourself and extends to others. You want to be great so that others can also be great.
4. Learning to Lose
Losing is hard and so is learning how to emotionally deal with it. Playing sports instills a basic set of ethics in kids. Some call it sportsmanship; in real life, it may just be a respect for other people. Regardless, when you compete hard and lose at a young age, you're inherently learning that things don't always go your way.
5. Learning to Win
On the flip side, it's important to feel that sense of accomplishment. Winning is exhilarating, and kids need to learn what it feels like to work hard at something and then be rewarded. Learning how to act after you win is also important. Being a good winner is just as important as being a good loser.
Getting your child involved in sports is one of the best things you can do for them. From the ups to the downs, sports teach us all how to live (parents too). As kids grow up and apply for jobs, I'm often told how many companies prefer to hire ex-athletes. Why?
In summary, they're goal-oriented, resilient people that have a sense of character about them. As I think about my own kids, these are certainly qualities that I hope they someday display.
What else would you add to this list? Chime in on the comments section below.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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