Since the creation of man, sports have had a tremendous role in the way people live their lives. From the time we are born, until our elderly age, most of us are involved in some way with sports. Whether it is a scrimmage game of soccer at recess in elementary school, playing on the varsity athletic team or simply watching the Olympics or sporting events on television, sports have an influential role in our everyday lives. The outstanding popularity of the sports industry has profoundly affected youth sports organizations that an estimated twenty-six million children ages six through eighteen participate in at least one school or community based athletic program (Smith & Smoll, 1997). Well structured sport programs can provide youths with opportunities to participate in activities that have immediate and long-term benefits, both psychologically, physically, and socially.
A large psychological benefit of sport participation is that sports can boost the self esteem of the people participating. The self-esteem of children is boosted when parents, coaches, and other teammates give the child positive feedback and show a sense of pride in what the child has accomplished (Bilich, 2006). Numerous studies have shown that girls who participate in physical activity such as sports are more likely to have more positive feelings of self-worth/self-esteem and a more positive body image than girls who are not very physically active in sports (USA Football, 2006).
This feedback is also important because it encourages young competitors to view success as achieving their own realistic goals, rather than depending on winning as the main reason for success. This psychological benefit of self esteem in many cases goes along with academic performance. A study conducted by Hardiness Research of Wyoming found that by a 2:1 ratio for boys and a 3:1 ratio for girls, those who participate in sports perform better in school, do not drop out and have a better chance to get through college (USA Football, 2006).
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Young athletes can learn to handle misfortune, whether its picking themselves up after losing a big game or not getting as many minutes in as they wanted and can learn to find ways to deal with losing and go on, because there's another game in a couple days, next week or even next year. These youths can learn to figure out what to do to get what they want for themselves and they learn to realize that if they put in extra time on fitness or work on specific weaknesses in their game they can obtain personal goals. Kids who interpret heir involvement on a task as successful persist and their motivation to be involved remains high (Anshel, 2003). This type of attitude behavior can be used on the field and off the field such as a classroom setting. High quality sports programs in public housing locations can significantly reduce the number of behavioral and emotional disorders in children and teens that live out there in low poverty social class neighborhoods. Participation in sports help emotionally disturbed teens become more confident, more expressive, and more independent .
If you take into account the inner city kids that don't have a parent there to make them get up and go to school then sports may be the deciding factor for them. A study done by the Women's Sports Foundation found that girls who participate in sports are 80 percent less likely to have unwanted pregnancies and 92 percent less likely to get involved with drugs than those who don't participate in sports (USA Football, 2006). Finally physically disabled youth who have taken part in sports have shown improvements in self-esteem, self-concept, and self acceptance.
This is important because a youth who is physically disabled has every right to play a sport just like a youth who is physically healthy and almost every sport out there can be modified to allow participation by someone with a disability. Also across the country, sports programs such as the Special Olympics that are designed for children and adults who wish to compete against others with mobility and vision impairments are growing in number (Devine, McGovern & Hermann, 1998). This is a large boost in the physically disabled youth's self-esteem because that youth knows that their participation in sport allows them the opportunity to advance in sport just like a healthy youth can. Physical activity is essential for children; therefore sport participation has many physical benefits for youths (Willox, 1994). In the United States there is a very unhealthy trend of physically unfit children going on.
According to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health seven out of ten kids in our nation are out of shape and the incidence of obesity has increased by more than 50 percent among America's children and teen since 1976 and continues to grow at a staggering rate (Metzel & Shookhoff, 2006). When children participate in sports activities they get some of the exercise they need to improve their quality of life and can help prevent children from becoming obese. Physical activity regulates obesity because it increases energy expenditure, suppresses ppetite, increases metabolic rate, and increases lean body mass (Willox, 1994). Even though regular physical sport activity has been shown to improve physical fitness, it can also help in preventing many different health problems down the line that youths who participate in sports are more likely not to develop than youths who do not participate in sports. Women who participated in organized sport and fitness programs as children have significantly higher done densities as adults than women who were not active as children (McCulloch, 1990).
Some long term physical activities, particularly gymnastics and swimming, are effective in reducing asthmatic symptoms, frequency of hospitalization, and use of medication for children between 5 and 14 years of age (Willox, 1994). By reducing the symptoms of the diseases the child may have to see a doctor less than if they were not participating in sports. Life is inherently stressful, and youth sports provide ample opportunities for child athletes to cope effectively with sport related stress (Anshel, 2003).
Therefore, sports and physical activity also allow youths to clear their minds of academic and social pressures, to literally run off the tension that's accumulated in their muscles. This may serve as an inoculation to build antibodies in children against the more harmful stress viruses they will encounter later in life (Anshel, 2003). This can prevent children who have participated in sports not to develop negative lifelong attitudes toward physical activity, and continue an active lifestyle compared to children who have not participated in sports may in the future experience an inactive lifestyle.
Finally, because sports increase an awareness of one's body and how it responds to different stimuli and circumstances, sports help prevent drug and alcohol abuse (Willox, 1994). Research has shown that students who participate in interscholastic sports are less likely to be regular and heavy smokers; students who play at least one sport are 40 percent less likely to be regular smokers and 50 percent less lively to be heavy smokers; regular and heavy smoking decreases substantially with an increase in the number of sports played (USA Football, 2006).
Since most older and successful athletes value what their bodies can do and want to maintain those abilities, youths find this as the opportunity to also be a good athlete by telling their friend no to drugs, booze and other high risk, unhealthy behaviors. Sports are a social activity. Youth athletes develop relationships with their teammates and coaches that can sometimes last a lifetime. For boy, sports are a primary and unfortunately sometimes the sole, way of socializing with others and in many schools and communities non-athletic males find it difficult to develop a social network at all; for girls on the other hand, girls tend to define themselves through their relationships rather then achievements, sports offers yet another way to make friends and create an alternate peer group (Metzel & Shookhoff, 2006). Therefore youths involving themselves in sports can also socially and psychologically give children a meaning of self worth and self concept by having a feeling of belonging.
This socializing and sense of belonging can also allow children and youth to develop their communication skills as well as learning to work together and cooperate to produce teamwork. Sports also allow youths to take leadership roles and step out into the forefront (Willox, 1994). Whenever possible give youth athlete players an opportunity to make decisions that affect their play or the game because when a player's position, team strategy and other individual decisions can help the team meet their needs and succeed the individual meets their needs for self-determination (Anshel, 2003).
Self-determination is a key factor in youths to continue wanting to be socially involved in a team for their own benefit. Sport participation in children and youths are excellent place for the teaching of cooperative values and skills such as communication, honesty, sportsmanship and teamwork that can promote a sense of strong positive and social values (Willox, 1994). Sports are very beneficial to children and youths that participate in them.
Sports teach the participants many lessons that can carry over into the real world and help succeed in the rest of their life. In fact 80 percent of women identifies as key Fortune 500 companies participated in sports during their childhood (USA Football, 2006). Youth sports provide a safe environment where youths and teens can build on their goals and dreams of maybe one day becoming a professional athlete, while also building their psychological, physical and social values for a more successful future.
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