The hidden benefits of junior sport

In a busy world where trivial things often receive far more attention than the important things in life, the true value of having children participate in junior sport can often be overlooked.

It’s now common knowledge that countries in the Western World are experiencing alarming rates of childhood obesity, and of course having a child play sport will help prevent that.  However many parents believe that their child is better off participating in other forms of physical activity, as it reduces the chance of injury which can occur when a child is playing competitive sport.

Do these parents however understand the social benefits that playing junior sport can bring?

These social benefits include simple things such as making new friends and feeling as if they fit in, yet also more complex things like limiting their amount of free time with no direction, improving self-confidence and self-esteem, and developing leadership and team work skills which are all important parts of a child’s development. Furthermore, a child who experiences a sense of achievement on a sporting field can gain an early understanding as to what success feels like, which can often go a long way to ensuring they strive to succeed off the field as well. Sport can often be a childs first opportunity to shine and maximise their own potential.

Government studies also suggest that playing junior sport can help reduce the chances of depression in teenage years as sport can help the child feel a sense of belonging and develop important friendships which often last throughout their teenage life and into adulthood. This will help the child feel “included” and will prevent loneliness, a major trigger of teenage depression.

Additionally, if a child begins playing sport and follows through with it into their teenage years, they are far less likely to commit acts of teenage crime which like obesity, is rapidly on the rise. Studies conclude that the number one trigger for a teenager committing a crime is boredom… Which of course will be reduced if they’re busy playing sport.

Having coached a junior cricket team for 3 years, I’d encourage all parents to not only encourage their child to play for a junior sporting team, but also lend a hand in a variety of roles. These roles can include simple tasks such as being a scorer, helping in the canteen or even simply cutting up oranges, or they can be more complex tasks such as being a team manager, coach or an umpire. These roles will not only increase the enjoyment levels for the parent in that they will feel more involved and influential in their childs team, but it will also help ease their childs levels of anxiety because as we all know, a child loves having his parents around to support and watch them play every week!

From my own experience, seeing these children grow and develop both as sportspeople and individuals over the last 3 years is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced, and whilst doing so they’ve made close friends which could potentially last a lifetime.

So parents, when it’s time to decide how your child is going to spend their weekends, make the wise move and enrol them at the local Netball or Football Club instead of buying them that X-Box… The rewards later on in their development are endless.