Children’s Sports: Improving Children’s Mental Health Today and in the Future
I watch my three-year-old jump on the couch, run down the hallway, and twirl herself down to the floor at least five times a day. Each time I remind her to be careful or chastise her for jumping on the furniture.
Children have an enormous amount of energy and can think of countless ways to spend it. While play is a child’s favorite way to utilize their energy, many parents prefer that their child runs around outside instead.
Children’s sports are an excellent compromise. They allow our children to play and socialize with their peers while they exercise. Enrolling your child in sports at an early age can offer them many mental health benefits as well.
Mental Health Benefits of Children’s Sports
There are a few obvious benefits of children’s sports. First, it provides them with an outlet for their energy. Second, sports provide children with an opportunity to build social skills and create friendships. The third and most obvious benefit of children’s sports is that it is a fun way for children to exercise. Along with these three important benefits, there are four key mental health benefits provided by youth sports.
Structure & Support
Youth sports provide children with structure. They offer weekly or daily practices that follow an established routine. After a few practices, the children know what to expect and are eager to follow the coach’s lesson plan.
A child’s participation in team sports also provides them with a small support system. Coaches and teammates can provide children with a sense of support, inclusion, and community. The support system becomes a safe place for the child to express themselves.
Success & Confidence
Can you remember the first time you scored points or earned the applause of a crowd? If you think about it, I bet you can still feel your chest swell with pride.
Another key mental health benefit of children’s sports is their ability to instill in a child both confidence and self-esteem. With each success on the field, the child and the team celebrate. These small successes and celebrations provide children with confidence and instill in them a sense of pride and self-respect that will follow them off the field.
Perseverance & Resilience
If you can remember your first real success, I’m sure you can remember your first big loss. Losing, or failing, causes us to doubt ourselves. It causes feelings of disappointment and dejection. Even though these feelings are uncomfortable, they are feelings that we experience in every stage of our lives. We must learn to deal with these feelings.
Failure, or loss, can set us back. Youth sports encourage children to persevere. They teach them to look past the loss and work harder. The coaches encourage children to strive to be better players and teammates.
Physical & Mental Strength
Learning to persevere, building resilience, and striving to be better are all very positive lessons youth sports teach children that benefit their mental health. Celebrating their successes and instilling in children a sense of pride builds mental strength and provides them with a cushion against future blows.
It may seem obvious that sports offer physical health benefits, but these physical health benefits can also benefit your child mentally. Whether their physical appearance fits the ‘standard’ or not, feeling strong and capable provides children with self-esteem and confidence which boosts their mental strength even further.
The Importance of Monitoring Children’s Mental Health
Teaching children to care for themselves mentally at an early age and providing them with the tools necessary to do so will encourage a lifetime of mental well-being. Having a positive view of oneself affects so many aspects of our lives, from education to socialization our mental health touches on every interaction and experience we have.
Check out the following links for tips on how to teach your child positive mental health practices!