Mental Assist: How Youth sports promote Mental Health

11 May 2021 08:23 am, by YorkshireSquare

Mental Health hits kids differently. As adults, we can forget how hard it was growing up without the lessons and understanding we have now. Kids are blank canvases, and their impressionable minds are susceptible to bullying, self-esteem issues, and overall well-being. Technology has morphed in-person bullying into cyber-bullying, a trend that can be much more intrusive and hateful because of its anonymity. Kids can feel isolated and may not know how to voice their issues. The physical effects of youth sports are very well-documented, but new studies show that youth sports also promote mental health. Besides the release of endorphins and the impact of exercise on the body, youth sports also have a slew of mental health benefits for kids.

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Here are some of the ways sports programs for kids promote mental health.

Accepting Loss

Youth Sports puts kids in friendly competitions to test their skills and team dynamics. Losing a game can be devastating, but it’s a crucial first step towards accepting loss and defeat. Kids who experience failing a game build resilience and persevere in working harder next time. While the loss of a sports game isn’t comparable to a tragedy or traumatic event, experiencing some lesser form of loss can help lessen the impact later in life. Kids may develop more resilience and in the face of it and may not spend as much time defeated or thrown off track.

Build Confidence

Sports can be an effective way for kids to build their confidence as they improve their skills and technique. Having a coach who points out their improvement is essential to track their progress, but success is usually an effective identifier of improvement. Team dynamics encourage kids to participate and see themselves as a vital part of the team. Seeing themselves as worthy of praise can be an effective way for kids with depression or anxiety to believe in themselves.

Develop Patience and Perseverance

While some players may show more talent or aptitude than others, most players start at 0 and must work to improve. During the off-season, they must prepare daily with drills, practice, nutrition, and workouts. They’re strategizing with coaches and team leaders to analyze and exploit opponent weaknesses between games. They’re developing their skills and strengths over time. Developing perseverance can equip kids with the right tools for future success. Youth sports can instill long-term goal setting and breaking down larger goals into smaller, more achievable steps. This skill is easily transferable to adult life for larger projects like owning a home.

Learn How to Trust

Most youth sports are team sports and encourage players to interact with each other on and off the field. Many team members become lifelong friends. The trust they establish on the field can translate into adult life. Some youth programs may pit kids together of different backgrounds, depending on the setting. Kids can learn to relate and empathize with their teammates and look past differences. Players who learn to trust their team members may have an easier time finding similarities with others later on in life.

Creating Community

Youth sports can help kids build community with their team members. Learning how to be a part of a team may help kids see their place in the bigger picture. Their interactions with other players to play sports and eventually win or lose may teach them to work together to tackle other more significant adversities. Many team leaders can also take their leadership skills to help organize community events and lead people to greater causes. Community is crucial for kids dealing with stress at home or school. Many children develop mental illness later on when they don’t have a strong support system or feel isolated. Community helps children feel connected and may reduce mental illness risk as they grow up.

Final Thoughts

With community recreation centers projecting to open up in the summer, many kids are looking to get back into youth sports after a year of quarantine. The impact of the pandemic has shown just how valuable community programs such as youth sports are to a child’s development. While it doesn’t guarantee a life without mental illness, youth sports can help children develop resilience, confidence, trust, and community, tools that will greatly serve them in their futures.