The Long-Term Impacts of Youth Sports Participation

The Long-Term Impacts of Youth Sports Participation

In the current climate of school, tests, and college prep, youth sports amongst other activities have taken a back seat. Youth sports are seen as a distraction to the educational grind in some families. Increasing in communities nationwide amongst kids and adults alike is the level of competition for opportunities. Parents, justifiably, have been enrolling kids in various educational classes and standardized test prep classes. Education is the highest priority for kids, as it should be, but there is a need for youth sports.

My former teachers always recommended doing some type of school related work during the summer, because the time away leads to a loss of focus and practice in what is taught in school. This time off forces teachers to spend a majority of time early in the school year to review time. On the part of students, coming back to school becomes rough because the demands of adjusting to a routine of going to school.

Youth sports is the fact that youth sports give kids exposure to skills that greatly help in school. According to an article on campusexplorer.com, college admission officials heavily consider time management skills, as well as the ability to set and work towards achieving goals, as big plusses in an application. The qualities are instilled while participating in and continuing with youth sports.

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The Intangibles

Apart from time management, other benefits of team sports exist that aren’t talked about as much. As pointed out in muhealth.org, (University of Missouri) team sports at any level require effective communication, teamwork, and problem solving. Especially true during tough situations during games to try and pull out a win. Becoming better in a sport requires the interest in learning, repetition for practice and improvement, and adaptation to various game conditions. Awareness and adaptability are hard to teach, but youth sports are a unique place to practice those skills. The application of these skills are greatly valuable in future jobs, college admissions, and picking up new concepts in school.

Getting exposed to team sports as a child gives more time to pick up skills like these and put them into habit. This can correlate to success in school. More importantly, especially at the youth level, seeing your hard work yield results or positive individual performance can reinforce the idea that hard work can pay off. A consequence of this can be higher self-esteem and a familiarity with this feeling that can greatly help in incentivizing putting in effort in school.

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Real World Benefits of Youth Sports

It is widely pointed out that exercising is a great way to ease tension and stress. In my own life, I used workouts I learned as a kid. The habits I developed while playing youth sports paid dividends in my ability to adapt and cope with my homesickness during college in a different part of the country. An added benefit was that playing sports was a great way to meet new people, and take your mind off things.

Apart from adapting to tough situations, former student athletes tend to display more leadership characteristics and self-confidence. This creates a better chance to have an impact in a working environment, according to a Cornell professors study highlighted in Ithaca.com. It was also found that former student athletes tend to earn higher salaries. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS.org) highlights that students who participate in athletics tend to perform better academically than peers who don’t participate in athletic activities. They specifically highlight school attendance, time on homework, and educational aspirations. They also point out how participation in multiple sports greatly benefits kids especially as they are developing physically and educationally. Building on that, some theories highlighted above return. Participation in extracurricular activities, especially sports, are linked to better cognitive functioning.

Some Data

Their follow up study showed that students who participate in two sports have higher GPA’s than those that only play one sport, and the same goes for those that participate in three over two and one. This also applies to graduation rates according to the study by NFHS. Those participating in three, two, or one sport graduate at a higher rate than on athletes. A study conducted at Northwest Missouri University show that the mean GPA for athletes was 3.25, while for non-athletes was 3.01, and the median was 3.35 vs 3.15. While GPA isn’t the only measure of success, it is one that colleges analyze.

All in all, participating in sports from a young age has more benefits than meet the eye. Getting exposure to skills that translate to college and beyond is a great benefit. The opportunity to put those skills into practice and turn them into habits is a substantially beneficial one. Creating good habits at a young age means more time to see the rewards of those habits. More time also makes it harder and harder to lose those habits as well. As they say, old habits die hard. Actively engaging in sports at a young age, regardless of wins and losses, create those habits. Crucially, encouragement and support go a long way in making the learning process easier, whether it be in school or in sports.

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References

1. https://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/C4AA9344/Sports-and-College-Admissions/

2. https://www.muhealth.org/conditions-treatments/pediatrics/adolescent-medicine/benefits-of-sports

3. https://www.ithaca.com/sports/study-finds-long-term-effect-of-high-school-sports/article_ac5b03de-0d00-11e4-a564-001a4bcf887a.html

4. https://www.nfhs.org/media/868994/ws26-gimbert-sawyer.pdf

5. http://www.nwmissouri.edu/library/ResearchPapers/2012/Stegall,%20Ryan.pdf

Sportsmanship’s Different Forms

During the US Open, ESPN did and interview with Roger Federer, after a match he won. The interviewer, John McEnroe, observed that Federer, when the result seemed inevitable, began playing a bit differently. He pointed out that Federer was experimenting during the game with different shots than he would normally play. He transitioned into a question of sportsmanship.

McEnroe compared Federer’s match to another tennis player, Nick Kyrgios, who gave the impression that he didn’t seem to care about a match he played. It’s not just in tennis. I thought about other sports where respect for an opponent came into question. It got me thinking about sportsmanship and the examples professionals set for kids.

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Role models

Ultra-famous athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, and Bryce Harper, are role models to kids. Kids mimic their favorite players however they can.

Growing up, I played lots of basketball and my favorite player was Steve Nash. I tried to shoot free throws, pass, dribble, and act like he did. Other kids probably imagined last second shots while saying, “KOBEEEEE!”

These days, kids shoot from farther and farther away like Steph Curry. They dance and and celebrate after made shots. They try to cross over other kids like James Harden and stare them down before shooting. On one hand, that can be seen as a player trying their best and getting caught up in the moment, but it could be seen as disrespect.

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s critics say he’s arrogant. They point to times when he doesn’t celebrate with his team when someone else scores a goal. As if he is annoyed he didn’t score it. His supporters say it just shows his passion. Others say it demonstrates his arrogance. Regardless, how people perceive actions is subjective.

War and sports

Many sports use violent metaphors: go for the kill, be ruthless, it’s a battle, this is all-out war, etc. War is a violent aspect of society which leads to many well-documented problems. With the higher stakes of war and battles, you can’t regard opponents the same as a fight for sport, not to mention even less violent contests.

So is war the right mentality for a sport at young ages? Of course not, to any extreme. Most coaches and parents will tell you education and taking care of one’s self are more important. But they do not always act as if that’s true. They use the same metaphors as professional athletes and coaches.

In fairness, parents and coaches may do this to emulate how the pros get in the best mindset to perform their best. This type of talk motivates and brings the best out of professionals.

Kobe Bryant’s so-called, “Mamba Mentality” expresses the idea when playing, you have to be ruthless to be best. You could say the need to play hard and with intensity, at your best, is a form of respect.

On and off the court

Professional athletes talk about how they are different on their field or court than in real life. Whether this idea of separating how you act while playing and how you act outside the game is right or wrong is a separate debate.

For kids, their attention is on professional athletes during their games for the most part. This is where they see their actions and mimic them. Parents and coaches have a big role in making sportsmanship become a habit on AND off the court.

Conduct outside the field of play is starting to get some more airtime. Not only does television cover more off-field activity, but players’ own social media highlights it. Actions such as jersey swapping, where players of opposite teams sign their game worn jerseys and exchange them, get more notice. We need more of this, and these actions must be emphasized and given the positive credit they deserve.

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Broader implications

Sportsmanship is a habit. The sooner you start acting with it, the better. However, what one sees as being a good sport, others can perceive differently. It is a tough line to navigate as parent, coach, or role model.

I can’t say what is right or wrong in how to deal with this. There is something to be said for not worrying about what others say.

I can say is that sportsmanship takes many forms due to perception. Being aware of that, and acting based on how you would want to be treated, can go a long way. For me, being a good sport meant always having respect for those around you and treating others the way you would want to be treated.

The job for parents, coaches, role models, and mentors, is tough. But there are plenty of examples of great sportsmanship to expose kids to. The goal is to explore these topics of how to treat others and understand what consequences actions can have. Hopefully it goes a long way in a society where bullying is so prominent.

Being a good sport, encouraging others for being themselves can be a factor of this. All in all, the goal is to have kids enjoy what they do, on the court/field, in the classroom, or anywhere, and sportsmanship, and by extension respect, goes a long way in making this possible.