Elementary Schools across America offer recesses daily, giving kids an opportunity to take an academic break and get some exercise. These recesses combined with physical education classes are often many kids first exposure to sports. But why are these important to students and adolescents? Why are we scheduling time away from learning to go outside and kick balls around? Sure it is probably good for combatting childhood obesity, but is there more to it than that?
Several sports are team sports, which require many athletes to come together and meet a common goal. Fighting for a common goal with a group of players and coaches teaches teamwork. Teamwork is something that many employers are looking for today. Some consider it to be a life skill that is very valuable. Playing on a team gives individuals the opportunity to meet new people that someday could become lifelong friends. A team is inspiring, lots of fun and brings pleasure. It brings humor and promotes friendship. Teamwork allows people to focus on the talents they were given and it allows others on the team to focus on each of their strengths. The diverse pairing of personalities and scenarios will help athletes become adaptable, persistent, and patient. Team sports also teach a sense of group and individual responsibility.
Communication is another life skill that cannot be taught in books. Effective communication is a vital part in maintaining a functioning a successful sports team. While it might not be as obvious as sitting down and discussing a group project, team sports take a lot of communication, both spoken and unspoken. Playing on a team teaches athletes how to communicate to solve problems. This communication does not just happen in the game. It happens in the locker room before and after games. It happens when athletes are telling their parents when and where their next practice or game is. It is also nonverbal like giving glances to your teammate of where you are going to pass the ball or picking up the silent indications of an opponents next move. It also develops improved personal skills, including cooperation and leadership. This experience is helpful when encountering problems at work, school, or at home.
Clearly, sports can help you reach and maintain your fitness goals and sustain a healthy weight. Children who play sports experience many health benefits including a reduced risk of obesity and increased cardiovascular fitness. Sports also encourage healthy growth of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Some other benefits of kids playing sports include improved coordination and balance that lasts throughout their whole life. Sports also encourage healthy decision-making such as not smoking and not drinking.
People who play sports are proven to experience improved sleep. Getting enough sleep is associated with many health benefits. It is known to help you get sick less often, stay at a healthy weight, and lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease. Reduced stress can also be a result of a proper nights sleep, which in return can improve your mood, and help you get along better with people (6.) . Furthermore people that experience a good nights sleep tend to make better decisions and avoid more injuries – for example, sleepy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year. A lack of adequate sleep also has significant effects on learning and memory. When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more challenging to receive and retain information (Ellenbogen ). Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to organize information correctly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.
Along with getting better sleep, many students that play sports achieve more in the classroom. Some people may think that the time commitment involved with sports would distract student-athletes from schoolwork. The opposite, however, is often true. Sports require memorization, repetition, and learning — skills that are important and useful in the classroom (4.). Exercise increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain and releases responsible for the growth of brain cells. Also, the determination and goal-setting skills a sport requires can additionally be transferred to the classroom. Studies have shown a direct correlation between physical activity and academic performance. Athletes were also shown to have better G.P.A. outcomes than non-athletes. A University of Kansas study looking at the performance of students from 9th to 12th grade showed that more than 97% of student-athletes graduated high school. Students who had never participated in sports graduation rate averaged around 87% (8.) . This might have to do with the increased cognitive ability that comes from playing sports. Physical activity naturally increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates endorphins, chemicals that are released when you exercise. Endorphins can impact your mood and work performance, meaning athletes may be more willing and capable of tackling that next big problem. Many language arts and math standardized tests look for subconscious skills within a child, Skills like cause and effect, anticipation, planning, their ability to strategize and solve complicated problems. Plays, strategy, game day focus and constant evaluation of an opponent’s actions and positions also translate into an increased ability to evaluate issues at hand, thus helping students to correctly answer problem solving questions.
Team sports can also help with emotional development. Research shows that exercise can lead to a unique state of short-term relaxation, therefore, avoiding the complications of chronic muscular tension. This relaxation can promote increased concentration, better memory, enhanced creativity, more effective problem solving, and an improved mood, all of these are benefits that will extend into day to day life (7.).
Team athletes are constantly surrounding themselves with a variety of adults. Many of them can become positive role models along the way. Team sports foster mentorship between older players, younger players, coaches, and athletes, and many more. Coaches, in particular, can play an important role in a young athlete’s life. Positive Role models can inspire youth to work hard to achieve their goals, teach them how to overcome obstacles, and learn from their mistakes. These mentors also give athletes connections that may help them later in life. Players who have positive sports mentors when they’re young are also more likely to seek effective role models throughout their life leading to even more success ( 2.).
Playing sports also improves ones ability to make decisions. Sports plays happen fast, and athletes develop the skills needed to make effective snap decisions. Whether it’s a basketball player deciding to shoot, a soccer player realizing his best move is to pass to a teammate for the assist, or a volleyball player sending a quick set over on the second contact, athletes learn critical decision-making skills that will benefit them both during and after game time.
Any athlete who has played in a championship game knows the meaning of pressure. Sports create a safe environment where athletes can learn to conquer their natural “fight or flight” instinct to make consistent and difficult decisions in high-pressure situations. This ability to function under pressure translates to a person who is better at making deadlines, leading teams and working in stressful situations in the future (Farelli).
Being on a team with a dozen or more of your peers is an excellent way to recognize the individual talents each person brings to the table. It gives children the opportunity to play with other kids that they may not particularly get along with. Team sports teach children how to overlook an annoying teammate or a bad attitude. They also encourage empathy towards a fellow teammates or even an opposing player. In every sport athletes are guaranteed to come across a referee that makes a call they do not agree with. Sport teach athletes to respect those in authority even when they do not agree with them this lesson alone will help athletes go far. Furthermore team sports also instigate a selfless attitude for the pursuit of a common goal. Working with teammates teaches athletes important life skills such as to respect one another, make good decisions on behalf of the team, and not cut corners like skipping practices.
Playing a sport requires a lot of time and energy. The time commitment required by athletes can often be comparable to that of a full-time job. Think of all the different commitments an athlete needs to juggle: competitions, practices, tournaments, strength and conditioning, team meetings, sports physiotherapy — and these are just the sports-related obligations! Many athletes must schedule time to do hours of homework and still attend family obligations. Necessity demands that athletes learn valuable time management skills, otherwise, they would never be able to keep up with academics and sport. Effective time management planning is part of why many employers prefer hiring a former student-athlete.
Team sports are said to improve self-esteem. This is probably a result of better social interactions due to the effective communication learned through sports. It could also be because of the stronger relationships and friends students made through sports teams. Maybe it is because through sports many students achieve higher academic performance thus giving themselves and their parents something to be proud of. Their boosted self-esteem could also be a result of their improved physique that came from the consistent exercise required by most sports.
Girls entering adolescence are especially benefitted by team sports. They are at a time in their life where they are constantly being bombarded by messages about the importance of their looks and popularity. These lies from the media take a toll on their self-esteem and even lead to eating disorders. Team sports help build their confidence by proving that they're valued for more than just their looks. This experience causes them to gain greater confidence by learning about their own strengths and capabilities thus making them even better athletes.
Some people may disagree with the points made above. Others will not give their children the opportunity to play sports because of the possibility of an injury or the cost of the commitment. While those are real concerns, I still think that the benefits of team sports far surpass the risks and thus every kid should be given the opportunity to play a team sport.
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