Today’s youth have access to a wide range of organized extracurricular activities. With all the options available, it is no wonder many parents allow their children to participate in youth sports.
In addition to the direct rewards an individual receives, families and communities benefit as well.
Not only does a young athlete learn how to play a particular sport, he or she also gains physical strength, coordination and mental confidence.
In The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide for Parents, Jordan Metzl, M.D., and Carol Shookhoff, Ph.D., write, “Participation in sports provides opportunities for leadership and socialization, as well as the development of skills for handling success and failure. They also learn about competition, but within a restricted and safe system, where the consequences of losing are minimized.”
Within their own mental skill set, children develop skills such as listening and following moderate to complex instructions. In addition to making friends, they learn how to work with people they may not necessarily like or get along with for the betterment of the team.
They also have something to look forward to after school instead of playing video games, watching television, or surfing the Web.
They feel loved and appreciated when friends and family come to watch them play. They also learn how to work under pressure, and begin to understand that success and failure can be embraced and worked through.
Metzl and Shookhoof further explain, “Benefits for girls have been of particular interest to researchers. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports many developmental benefits of participating in youth sports for girls, including increased self-esteem and self-confidence, healthier body image, significant experiences of competency and success, as well as reduced risk of chronic disease. Female athletes do better academically, and have lower school dropout rates than their nonathletic counterparts."
Add it all up and a small percentage of the hardworking, lucky few will continue on to compete at the collegiate level and receive higher education.
Families participating in youth sports tend to be highly involved in their young athletes’ lives. Whether it is attending games and practices, assisting in fundraising, volunteering, or working on skills at home, parents and other family members have a vested interest in wanting the athletes to succeed and enjoy this time in their lives.
In order for all athletes--including youth--to gain strength and endurance, they must eat healthy. Oftentimes, when one member of a family is eating healthy, other family members adjust their dietary habits and eat better too.
If a parent or sibling wants to help the athletes succeed, they will practice with them outside of the regular practice schedule; this also creates more family time. Family members that practice with the athletes also increase their physical activity.
Every community, big or small, can benefit from youth sports. There are numerous opportunities for individuals to be involved in youth sports, whether as a participant, volunteer or sponsor.
In addition to traditional school sports, there are many not-for-profit, for-profit and municipal recreation sports programs and leagues available for youth participation.
Children, if taught and coached properly, stand a good chance of growing up to be productive members of society.
“When playing games, children learn how rules work. They see how groups need rules to keep order, that the individual must accept the rules for the good of the group, that rules entail a consideration of the rights of others,” Metzl and Shookhoof note.
It is likely that many adults who volunteer in youth-sports programs--in one facet or another--had positive youth-sports experiences as children.
Positive, well-established, and organized youth-sports programs can be one of the many factors parents use in their decision as where to live and raise their family. This can, in turn, raise property values and boost the local economy.
All of us should work together to help bolster and support local youth-sports programs in whatever way possible. It doesn’t matter how or which organization(s) you choose to support, just do your part to better the lives of the youth, the family and the community.
Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., Carol Shookhoff, Ph.D., The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor's Complete Guide for Parents; www.enotalone.com/article/5298.html
Gary Gartner, CPRP, is the sports coordinator for the city of Apache Junction Parks and Recreation Department in Arizona. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.