Against a backdrop of increasing childhood obesity, the physical benefits of sports participation are clear. Kids today need to move more, and being on a team or involved in a sport is a great way to stay healthy. But there’s also been more discussion of the physical risks that children face in sports, and with good reason. As a nation, we are coming to terms with the epidemic of knee (soccer and track), shoulder (tennis and baseball), and head (football) injuries related to specific sports. What’s talked about less often are the psychological risks and benefits related to youth sports.
While teaching “Sociology of Sport” at Northwestern University (a Big 10, Division 1 school), I did the research and heard from hundreds of students. Here are six risks and six benefits that parents of athletes of all ages should consider as they help their kids navigate the world of sport.
My daughter has become a very strong, young woman primarily due to sports. She was a pretty shy girl when she was young. She started playing basketball in 4th grade. And, she is tall, so she was placed to play under the boards. And, when we started playing other schools, there are some rough teams out there. If you have ever played basketball, it is especially rough under the boards to rebound. There were some games she was near tears. And, you either get stronger or you quit. She worked really hard at it and got stronger. Now she is 15 and the apple of my eye and watching her play basketball and perform her Post moves is such a delight. Now, i am not saying sports is everything. She is also artistic, plays 2 instruments, plays in the concert band and jazz band, as well as academics. But, sports was critical in really teaching her grit and resilience.