Are sports good for kids? Here’s what the research says…

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Are sports good for kids?  What are the benefits for kids who play sports?  In a nutshell, here’s what the research tells us…

For starters…

Did you know that kids who play youth sports have higher test scores in school?

It’s true. The American College of Sports Medicine found that athletes score up to 40% higher test scores.

Another study published in 2014 by the University of Kansas analyzed the academic performance of athletes and non-athletes in grades 9 through 12 for an entire year in schools throughout the state. The results showed that participation in interscholastic athletics was associated with better educational outcomes… athletes had higher assessment scores and lower dropout rates than non-athletes.

Other studies showed that academic benefits of general physical activity started as early as Kindergarten… including enhanced concentration, attention, and improved classroom behavior… and these benefits only became more pronounced as the kids get older.

The studies also showed that the longer the child played sports, the more benefit the child experienced…

…especially for those who played a team sport in high school.

In fact, one study showed that “the strongest predictor… of health of men in their 70’s was shown to be whether they played a varsity sport in high school.” Source

Studies have also show that kids who play team sports also experienced

  • Less likely to be lonely or depressed
  • Have better overall mental health and emotional well-being (Journal of Adolescence)
  • Better self-worth (There was a statistically significant relationship between “team sport achievement experiences in early adolescence are positively associated with self-esteem in middle adolescence”)
  • Better social skills
  • Are less likely to smoke, use drugs, or have risky sex
  • Earn higher income (7 – 8% on average)
  • Experience lower health costs / be more healthy (reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes)
  • Are more productive at work
  • Better self-regulatory skills, such as planning, self-monitoring, evaluation, reflection, and effort… which is probably why there is so much evidence to show that elite athletes tend to be high academic achievers.
  • High school athletes are 15% more likely than non-athletes to attend college and get degrees (According to the Aspen Institute Project Play)
  • Athletes report learning experiences related to taking initiative, goal setting, applying effort, respect, teamwork, and leadership (Source)
  • “In 1 sample of high school students, athletes demonstrated significantly greater leadership ability than their nonathletic peers on the basis of scores from a standardized leadership ability test.” (Source)

In other words, when kids achieve success in a sport, it carries over into their life in many ways that lead to a happier and more successful life (Source)

BUT… there’s a big caveat here.

These amazing benefits are available, but not guaranteed. Far from it.

Why not?

  • The average child today spends less than three years playing a sport, quitting by age 11
  • By age 15, the average youth experiences a 75% drop in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
  • 70% of youth quit baseball by age 13

And we’re not just talking about kids without athletic talent who quit.

We’re talking about many who ARE gifted and who, at one point, loved the game…. And whose parents were shocked when their young athlete came to them and said, “Mom. Dad. I don’t want to play baseball anymore.”

So how can we ensure all of those

….countless trips to practices and games

….hours and hours sitting in bleachers

…cleaning grass stains off baseball uniforms or throwing batting practice after work

…actually translate into BOTH a love for the game, and all of those great life benefits and character building moments?

According to Aspen Institute Project Play and researchers identified and ranked a long list of important factors.

Fig. 7 What kids want out of sports is often very different from what adults think they want. Kids favor fun and inclusion over winning and competition. (Courtesy of Aspen Institute Project Play)   [Citation]

However, I feel like they can basically be summed up into two major categories:

  1. Keep a focus on skill development over winning (That includes parents too, not just coaches.  How do you react to your kid after he or she has a bad game?)
  2. Keep it fun  – This includes HOW practice are conducted, good relationships with teammates, and so much more.

It’s through faithfulness in the ordinary, every-day things in life that we show our love and shape the character of our children.

Sincerely, THANK YOU for all that you do,

Doug

Doug

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About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. (You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier) Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, Doug retired and took a position as a Major League scout with the Colorado Rockies for 2 years. Currently Doug is the Data and Game Planning Coordinator with the Colorado Rockies

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