This article is the fifth in a series of articles about sports in American culture.
Q: What are some of the benefits of sports for youth?
A: The director of the Center of Sports Psychology, Dr. Joel Fish, believes sports build positive attitudes in youth by requiring effort, skill-building and team participation. Athletes should pursue excellence, not perfection, and learn from both winning and losing.
One of the biggest influences on youth is the coach. Most coaches of youth teams are volunteers. There are organizations that train coaches and perform periodic evaluations throughout a season. One organization that provides these services is the National Youth Sports Coach Association.
Dealing with pressure is another lesson to be learned through sports by youth. Dr. Fish states that learning to relax, staying focused and maintaining confidence during stress are skills that youth can transfer to other difficult situations. Examples would be succeeding in exams or handling awkward social situations.
All the following information is from an online article “5 Benefits of Youth Sports.” Teamwork is a skill that can be transferred to all life situations, such as friends, co-workers, and family. Teamwork teaches youth to respect one another’s abilities, opinions, and ideas. In the classroom and on the playground, children get more accomplished and have more fun if they work together with other children.
Learning how to play by the rules is one of the most important lessons that children gain in youth sports. Winning with humility and losing with pride improves character in youth. Children can learn from their mistakes and learn not to consider losing games a failure.
According to Greg Bach, vice president of communications for the National Alliance for Youth Sports, in a statement from this same article, said sports are the most important tools in contemporary society to foster the development of positive character and positive life values.
According to data from the National Council of Youth Sports, there were more than 40 million girls and boys who participated in organized sports in 2008. The following information is based on an article entitled “The Benefits of Competitive Athletic Sports Participation in Today’s Sports Climate,” written by Kirk Mango, physical educator and former coach. He categorizes benefits into three areas: Physical, mental/conceptual and social.
Physical fitness is a valuable accomplishment in a society today that is plagued by obesity and obsessions with technology that engender physical passivity. Fitness enables youth to participate in a variety of individual and team sports.
The second category of benefits is mental/conceptual. Sports has a major focus of a positive code of ethical standards based on solid programs and solid coaches. According to Kirk Mango, a successful youth program has several components.
First, there is the CDSPH Principle, which represents commitment, discipline, sacrifice, priorities and heart. Goals are necessary for success in athletics. Otherwise, direction is absent. The attributes of drive and determination matter and are related to motivation to achieve goals. When athletes are challenged, their perseverance and determination are tested.
Every athlete experiences times of failure. How one responds to failure and how one copes with failure will affect future positive outcomes. An athlete can learn more from failure than success if open to processing failures and self-examination.
Athletes can develop integrity by making ethical choices that build character. In order to succeed in competitive athletics, there are some elements that athletes need. These include good time management skills, strategies to improve their skills, a strong sense of concentration, internal skills for coping with pressure, knowing when to take risks, and taking responsibility for one’s own success or failures. All the aspects of mental and conceptual growth do not occur automatically to athletes. Athletes have opportunities to choose decisions that develop these positive mental strengths.
Social benefits can be gained both in individual and team sports. Cooperation means participating in group or team behavior in a way that is the best for everyone involved. A shared common goal or goals is essential for such cooperation. Teamwork is working toward that common goal or goals. Finding one’s role on a team is similar to finding one’s role in life. Friendships made in sports often become long lasting relationships that develop from common interests. Many of these friendships last a lifetime.
The benefits possible for young athletes from participation in sports are many. In today’s news, there are almost daily examples of athletes who engage in self-serving behavior, participate in promiscuous behavior, demonstrate poor choices, practice winning at all costs, and participate in illegal activities. However, the number of athletes who are upstanding people and ethical and principled athletes far outnumber those who are not.
A productive offshoot of athletics is the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. The goal of the center is to create positive social change. There are four focus categories in the center.
The Education Programs category focuses on social justice, gender-based violence prevention, and a diversity inclusion program. Sports-Based Youth Developing is a global resource for sport-related youth development organizations that provide academic credentialing and professional development.
The third category of the center is higher education, providing access to higher education by creating partnerships for degree completion locally, nationally and globally. The fourth category of the center is community, which promotes positive cultural change through training, education, service and sports.
Next week’s article will continue the discussion of the benefits of sports for youth.
Judy Caprez is professor emeritus at Fort Hays State University.