6 Ways Sports Can Benefit Your Child

6 Ways Sports Can Benefit Your Child

The benefits for kids playing sports are emotional, academic, and physical.

By: Judy Koutsky

Playing sports has numerous benefits for your child, including positive physical, mental, and emotional development. Here, six reasons you may want to enroll your child in the sport of his or her choice.

1. Improve physical and psychological health. At its most basic level, the physical activity children get while playing sports has a positive effect on their whole body. “The health benefits are innumerable -- improved cardiovascular functioning, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and increased immunity (which means fewer colds each year),” says Holly Parker, PhD, psychotherapist and professor at Harvard. “The psychological benefits include reduced stress, anxiety and depression levels, and better mood, improved sleep, and a brain that functions much more efficiently and effectively overall.”

2. Keep kids out of trouble. Kids have a lot of pent-up excitement and energy, and as a parent, you want to direct that to positive outlets. Sports are a great way to keep kids out of trouble while channeling their enthusiasm toward their specific interests (hockey, tennis, or volleyball). “[Playing] sports is a great way to release energy in a healthy way,” says Thomas Gagliano, MSW and author of The Problem Was Me.

3. Build confidence. “Sports involve setting goals and striving towards them, which can enhance feelings of personal mastery,” says Parker. “Also, being part of a sports team can boost confidence through the additional friendships and social ties created.” Not enough can be said about the importance of activities that build both confidence and social skills, especially as big kids grow into teens.

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4. Encourage goal setting. “Sports help children to define ‘winning’ as personal growth, and it gives them a chance to see the tangible rewards of hard work,” says Samara Stone, MSW, LCSW-C, a clinical social worker and mother of three. Kids learn, too, to work with a team to set goals and create a strategic plan for achieving them. This carries over into many aspects of a child’s life.

5. Boost academic achievement. Beyond the physical, social, and emotional, sports can boost a child’s brainpower and ability to focus, too. “Exercise is wonderful for the brain and the functions it needs to do every day,” notes Parker. “Academics involves new learning, concentration, attention, and planning -- and exercise helps with all of these things.”

6. Prepare kids to overcome challenges. “Playing sports gives children a safe place to practice facing challenges,” says Stone. It’s safe in the sense that the coach and other adults are there to help give guidance and insight. Parker adds, “Sports provides training for learning how to cope with losing, disappointment, and failure. The key is that when we're striving for goals in life, we won't always get what we want or succeed (at least the first time).” If children encounter disappointment and learn to handle it, then they will be more likely to have the courage to take chances and risk failure, and to persevere when the going gets tough.

How has playing sports benefitted your child?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/bigjohn36

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