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Why Youth Sports?

Should my child participate in sports? 

This is a question that several parents probably ask themselves before enrolling their children in pee wee football, little league baseball, gymnastics and other youth sports. Paul Caccamo, executive director of Up2Us, says that, “Sports are more than a game; they are a set of life lessons. Kids growing up without them are really disadvantaged.” We agree that children participating in sports really do have an advantage. They acquire skills and lessons that could not only be used throughout their childhood but in their futures. Here are a few of the benefits of youth sports:


§  Health & Wellness: We are living in a world full of television and video games, which unfortunately creates couch potatoes. However, through sports, children engage in rigorous physical activity promoting good health and lifestyles. Parents are also prone to make healthier food choices for their children in order to increase their performance.

§  Goal-Setting: Children learn essential goal-setting skills when playing sports. They want to be successful, whether it is personal or amongst a team, so parents and coaches help the children set targets to reach those goals are personal successes.

§  Confidence & Self-Esteem: When a child feels as though they are succeeding at a sport, confidence and self-esteem building is inevitable. Children receive praise and congratulations from family and coaches when they have accomplished something (even if they didn’t win the game). This gives them the motivation to go back out and continue to work hard and accomplish more!

§  Time Management Skills: For adults, many of us strive for work/life balance. When children are involved sports, they learn critical time management skills that promote a realistic school/sports/life balance. They learn how to prioritize and multitask, skills many adults long for today.

§  Relationship Building & Teamwork: Children gain very important social skills through sport participation. They learn to get along and work as a team with other children from diverse backgrounds. In addition to social skills, they learn communication and relationship-building skills, which are great assets for their future academic endeavors, relationships and careers.

§  Adversity & Resiliency: Although winning is great, it doesn’t always happen. And although you try your best, mistakes may happen. Children learn to be resilient through failure and adversity and they learn the importance of getting back up and trying again. This is one of the most important things that a child can learn and it will stay with them throughout their lives.

§  Enjoyable Experience: With all the other benefits that sports has to offer, the most important benefit of youth sports is the enjoyable experience. Sports are fun! Children love them. They get to spend time with friends while doing something they really enjoy.


On the Field and Off the Streets

Participating in athletics is not a magical formula to keep youth out of trouble. A troubled child doesn’t just put on a sports jersey and suddenly become a perfect child. However, when he or she takes part in an organized sport, practices every day and learns how to become an integral part of a team, they are less likely to fall into trouble. A child with too much idle time can be a recipe for disaster.

When playing a competitive sport you are required to practice. Usually these practices take place 3-5 times per week for 2 hours per day. This leaves less time available for a child to get into mischief. Youth who are fully involved in their sport, are less interested in drinking, drugs and or risky sexual behaviors. Female athletes are 65% less likely to become teen mothers, when they are involved in competitive sports. Student athletes are 70% more likely to keep good grades in order to stay on the team.

Sports have the ability to give children a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. Many youth athletes illuminate at the thought of doing something that benefits themselves, their friends and their communities. Having a positive outlet keeps children who would otherwise be involved in gangs or mischievous activities, a place to build up their confidence, respect for authority, and develop a work ethic. NFL coach Tony Dungy said it best:

“When you represent something that is larger than yourself and means something to others, it changes your perspective. It helps you see directly and in a positive way that what you do can have a positive impact on somebody else’s life.”

In today’s society, it is easy for children to fall off a path of success. Nevertheless, when they are a part of a team, they can learn the necessary tools to avoid a troubling road. Going out and becoming a part of the football team or the swimming team will not rid our youth of all their problems; it is not a cure to youth drug abuse, or any other detrimental behaviors, but it definitely gives them an opportunity to stay on the right side of the law.

Benefits of Youth Sports

The evidence supporting sports participation for our youth is overwhelming. It has the power to combat everything from racism to low self-image, to the high-school drop-out rate.” (Sue Castle, Executive Producer of PBS Sports: Get in the Game)

 Physical Benefits

Children who play sports develop general physical fitness in a way that’s fun, and they establish lifelong habits for good health. This is particularly important at a time when obesity in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. The incidence of obesity has increased by more than 50% among America’s children and teens since 1976. It continues to grow at a staggering rate. The 2009 National Survey of Children’s Health showed that non-athletes are 60% more likely to be overweight than athletes.

 Healthy Habits

Because sports increase an awareness of one’s body and how it responds to different stimuli and circumstances, sports help prevent drug and alcohol abuse. Most athletes value what their bodies can do and want to maintain those abilities. Being an athlete also gives kids an acceptable reason for telling their friends no to drugs, booze, and other high-risk, unhealthy behavior.

 Behavioral Benefits

Young people that participate in sports are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, drugs, sex, and criminal activity. For example:

§  Female high school athletes are 92% less likely to get involved with drugs

§  Female high school athletes are 80% less likely to get pregnant

§  Female high school athletes are 3 time more likely to graduate than non-athletes

§  Between 3:00 and 8:00 PM are the peak hours of violent crime, and are also the hours when children are most likely to be the victims of crime

§  Teens left unsupervised 3 or more days per week are twice as likely to hang out with a gang member and three times more likely to be engaged in criminal behavior

§  Areas with high crime rates also tend to have lower rates of physical activities

§  Studies have shown reduced crime rates in areas with sports-based youth development initiatives.

Personal Development Benefits

Participating in youth sports:

§  Builds self-esteem, self-respect and dignity

§  Provides social interaction with peers and adults

§  Helps develop talents

§  Teaches sportsmanship and how to control emotions

§  Teaches teamwork

§  Shows kids how to play within the rules

§  Teaches kids how to deal with adversity by showing them it is all right to make a mistake

§  Instills self-discipline and an awareness of the value of preparation

§  Teaches kids how to deal with criticism

§  Provides leadership opportunities

§  Fosters a sense of community by providing a sense of belonging or to be part of a group

§  Teaches time management and the value of planning ahead

§  Develops skills for handling success and failure

§  Provides a stress relief from academic and social pressures

 Societal Benefits

Kids who participate in organized sports are LESS likely to:

§  contravene the law or go to prison

§  join a gang

§  abuse alcohol or drugs

§  abuse sex or become pregnant

§  skip class

§  have discipline problems in school

§  drop out of school

§  become a welfare recipient

Kids who participate in organized sports are MORE likely to:

§  perform well in school

§  have higher grades on national tests

§  graduate from high school

§  go to college

§  become and remain employed

§  become directors and managers

§  become business and political leaders

contribute to society by participating in social and charitable programs

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