Family Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder

Why You Should Really Root For Your Child to Play Sports

My son Kyle, a millennial, shared his story about growing up. He suggested that if he had played organized sports during his adolescence, he may have gotten into less trouble and had more confidence as a young adult. But as a mom, my focus was on keeping him healthy and active and frankly I did not focus much on the need to get him involved in organized sports.

As parents, we are not usually given a manual on how to raise our kids and we usually do what we think is in their best interests. So we may avoid drugs, eat healthily, be ethical and otherwise lead  by example. We even try to boost their confidence but show them tough love when necessary and provide a safe haven at home. But the truth is our kids may need more than what we are providing them because growing up is hard and requires facing many trials and tribulations. 

Frankly, I can’t imagine growing up in the environment today’s youth are facing. We live in a world of social media and smartphones. Everything is accessible, everything is public and everything is competitive. Relevant concerns are usually the following: Who has the most followers? Who is the best looking? Who takes the coolest trips? And all this may be a cause of stress and depression.

So yes, our kids face increased challenges during their middle and high school years!

The transition to high school is often one of the most difficult changes for youth to make. Unfamiliar peer groups, increased class sizes, exposure to drugs and alcohol and mental health disorders all contribute to high levels of stress and unsafe behaviors among adolescents,” according to one report discussing a recent study on youth and sports.

And let’s not forget the stiff competition of getting into “the right college.” 

So it turns out Kyle may have been on to something, and a little competition may be just what your child needs for a number of reasons. I’m talking about competition in sports.

According to the recent study, adolescents who play sports are taught a lot more than how to be a good athlete or the rules of the sport they are participating in.

Researchers of the study surveyed the parents of 276 high school students. Out of the total number of students, 214 participated in sports and 62 did not. The survey questions given to the parents asked about their child’s participation in sports and “levels of resilience, social competence, and empathy.”

The results showed higher-levels of parent-reported resilience among the adolescents who played sports versus those that did not.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. 

Parents are biased when it comes to their kids. The sports parents could just happen to be reporting how great their kids are (according to them).

But there is significant credible evidence which suggests that playing sports is great for adolescents in more ways than one.

“Sporting activities encourage children to help others and to develop altruism and empathy. Adolescents who play sports are friendlier to peers, especially to those involved in similar activities, and have less contact with peers who are inclined to engage in problematic behavior,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This is exactly what my son Kyle said when he shared his story. Had he participated in more sports, he may not have gotten caught up with kids who were partying and getting into trouble.

Now as far as resilience is concerned, it would make sense why adolescents who play sports may be more resilient than those who don’t.

“Resilience requires self-discipline and perseverance through adversity," said one of the lead authors of the study.

“You could get hurt, lose the game or get a bad call against you, but you have to figure out how to channel that into a positive focus and move forward after these negative moments."

The researchers also found that the adolescents who participated in sports had higher levels of self-regulation, empathy and social competence (which they said are all traits that contribute to increased resilience).

If your child plays sports, he or she will have to learn team building, how to not be a sore loser and not only learn how to treat their teammates but also people from the opposing team.

To me, the most interesting finding from the study was that researchers saw a positive correlation between the number of sports played and increased levels of resilience. So more sports may mean better resilience!

What if your kid is just not into sports?

It is my opinion that there is a sport for everyone. Maybe it’s not the more common, popular sports such as football, soccer or basketball. Perhaps your child is more of a golfer, swimmer or a tennis player. There is also baseball, gymnastics or track and field. Cheerleading, of course, is also a sport. Some of these sports require less teamwork than others, but they can all teach your child how to overcome adversity and be humble.

Just have your children try something. Talk to them about what their interests are and explain to them why playing sports could be a great activity for them. Discuss how good it is for us to move our bodies so that we can be healthy and learn things beyond the classroom.

Don’t forget nutrition.

Good nutrition is important for every child and adolescent but especially if he or she plays sports. We need to ensure they have the proper nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to fuel their bodies both before and after physical activity. To learn more about what nutrients your child may need, read here.

And last but not least, make sure that your child takes routine nutrient tests in order to identify any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. If an imbalance or deficiency is discovered, a competent healthcare professional can help you and your child make the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here. 


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