The Benefits of Youth Sports and Youth Sports Competition
by Derek Imig
In 1993, as a freshman in high school, I thought I was going to be the next Will “the Thrill” Clark. I planned to weigh exactly 180 pounds and attend college at Mississippi State University (because that’s what the back of all of his baseball cards listed). I tailored my swing to look exactly like his. Problem is I was not good at baseball and didn’t enjoy it once I started playing.
Whether it is soccer, gymnastics, or any other sport, there are life lessons to be learned through participation in sports. As the parents of 4 young, active kids, my wife and I struggle to keep them as involved as possible and avoid going insane with the demanding schedules it places on us all. Our week is filled with practices that conflict with the amount of time needed for school, homework, work, and time for decompression. Weekends – time needed for catching up on housework, chores, school projects, birthday parties, etc. – often includes gymnastics tournaments and soccer games. Occasionally we get in some family events. But as long as we can manage it, sports will be a constant focus for the supreme benefits they offer.
The Benefits of Youth Sports and Competition
- Teamwork. As adults, we all work professionally in teams of some sort and understand the best teams excel because of trust, hard work, sacrifice, and collaboration. The same occurs on the field. We do not always like everyone on our teams, but we must work with them, treat them with respect, and help them up when they fall down.
- The Value of exercise. Today, practice is fun. In 20 years, hopefully they understand living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular, physically demanding exercise is important to an active life. I hope my children won’t ever be able to imagine life without active exercise. Most probably agree.
- Whether sports or academics, each child should understand that you get out what you put in. Ask any teacher and you will find that listening, following instructions, and being trusted to do what is asked are all part of academic success. The same is expected in team sports for good reason. Discipline always yields success. In fact, many studies show that a comparative analysis of athletes versus non-athletes shows higher GPAs, attendance, math and English test scores and lower discipline referrals and dropout rates in those who participate in athletics.
- Winning and losing. Winning should feel great and it usually does! Losing sometimes hurts and when others receive trophies, medals, or other awards for their performances the painful lesson mirrors what is true later in life: that not everyone gets a trophy for participating.
- Learning strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Sometimes we actually surprise ourselves. And even some of the things we end up being at, we don’t enjoy. Youth sports is part of that lifelong lesson. Every U6 volunteers to be the goalie when the question is asked. Give that a couple of years and less hands go up in the air. It is OK to try a sport and not like it. It’s also amazing to see a kid excel, enjoy the feeling, and become completely infatuated with the sport.
- How to manage stress. Although we could go on forever, there is a bottom line. Sports are fun and competition is stressful. Kids want to win and fortunately will experience losses. Learning to manage the stress of competition is part of growing up, getting better at what we do, and should be accepted by parents, coaches, and competitive kids. Wanting to win and be your best leads to achieving success in stressful situations, on the field and in life.