Should your student participate in year-round sports?
The incredible responsibility of raising children is a complex, rewarding, at times frustrating, and amazing endeavor. Though many have tried to write manuals on child rearing, no book provides all the answers. One thing is a given though, we want the best for our children. One way we can ensure they have the best shot at the “best” is to keep them active, all year round.
Year-round participation in sports offers a plethora of benefits to our children ranging from physical and mental health benefits to positive cognitive and social growth and development.
And, studies show that students who play different sports throughout the year, as opposed to playing just one all year round, gain even greater advantages than “specializing” in one sport.
Physical Health Benefits
The physical health benefits are obvious. Sports help build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, help control weight and reduce fat, and prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure. Regular exercise is beneficial to all. For our youth, it is especially important in that it promotes, encourages, and reinforces a sense of self-care, that is, doing things that are in our best interests. Adolescents who play sports are eight times more likely to be active in their 20s than those who do not.
Cognitive Health Benefits
A healthy brain is one that can process all the mental processes that are collectively known as cognition. Language, judgment, intuition, the ability to learn new things, and memory recall are all features of cognition. Organized sports help children develop and improve cognitive skills, enhance concentration and attention, and improve classroom behavior. Active students show greater improved academic achievement, including grades, and standardized test scores. Further, high school athletes are more likely than non-athletes to attend college and earn degrees.
Mental Health Benefits
Adolescence is a trying time; the brain and the body go a bit haywire as mental and physical change takes place as a child grows. Sports can positively affect the personal growth and development of youth. Improved self-esteem and self-image, and more effective goal-setting and leadership abilities, are associated with participation in sports. Active students also experience less depressive episodes and suicidal ideation as they move into and through their teenage years than those are not active.
The ability to interact with the world around us is, in large part, a learned activity. Participating in sports at a young age exposes children to situations, scenarios, and environments that they otherwise would not be exposed to, and, thus, teaches and fosters the traits of effective interpersonal relationships through the promotion of practical communication skills. Studies also show that adolescents that actively participate in organized sports are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, or engage in risky sexual behavior.
Single vs Multi-Sport Participation
While year-round participation in sports is of great benefit to our youth, recent studies indicate that multi-sport participation offers additional advantages that are not gained for those that specialize in just one sport. Multi-sport athletes dramatically decrease the chance for injury over single sport athletes. Additionally, students who play more than one sport are less apt to quit playing. A related result to these studies determined that there is no solid evidence that specializing in one sport at a young age offers greater advantage in that sport.
In our efforts to provide our children with the best to prepare them for independence, it is clear that year-round participation in sports offers them multiple advantages that will benefit them physically, mentally, and socially.