Top 5 Hidden Benefits Of Youth Sports

PracticeExplaining the importance of staying active to the families and coaches of young athletes is like preaching to the choir.

With the obesity rate in the U.S. continuing to climb, participating in organized sports is more important than ever to keep the youth of America at a healthy body weight.

But what many active families might not realize is that there are many hidden benefits received by young athletes as a result of their participation in sport.

1. Develop Social Skills

Exercising together offers children an opportunity to socialize. In a study published in 2009, high school students playing organized sports viewed their practices as an opportunity to meet other young people with shared interests. Not only do young athletes build relationships amongst themselves, youth sports can also encourage players to interact with adult figures like parents and coaches. The study also suggests that youth sports can encourage children to build stronger relationships with their teachers.

2. Improve Concentration

Research has shown that exercise can improve concentration in children, having a direct effect on their academic achievement. One particular study concluded that after 30 minutes on a treadmill, students were able to solve problems up to 10 percent more effectively. With physical education classes slowly declining in schools across the U.S., extracurricular physical activities are becoming more important than ever to improve a child’s brain function.

3. Mood Booster

Exercising causes the body to release chemical endorphins, which work to reduce the perception of pain and help the body relax. These chemicals act as natural mood boosters that increase feelings of happiness and optimism. As the body generates more endorphins through exercise, it simultaneously reduces anxiety and stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol.

4. Sleep More Soundly

Stimulating the body throughout the day will in turn make falling asleep easier and the length of sleep longer. Exercising regularly and participating in an organized sport can improve the quality of sleep and can regulate the transition between sleep cycles.

5. Higher Self-Esteem

Positive experiences in sports can help to increase a player’s self-esteem and self image. Being surrounded by a supportive community of coaches, families, and teammates can create an environment that bolsters an athlete’s self-esteem and celebrates their skills. Higher self-esteem can lead to reduced anxiety, fewer interpersonal problems, a better body image, and a lower chance of participating in risky behaviors.

Youth sports are so much more than a way to keep a healthy weight! Let us know what other interesting benefits you think are worth sharing in the comments section below!

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To Youth Sports?

Cost of Youth Sports RisingDuring a time of uncertainty surrounding the negative effects from our ever-growing dependence on technology, the benefits of youth sports have become more important than ever before. Participation in youth sports fights against the rising obesity rate in children, contributes to time management skills and discipline, is thought to produce higher grades and graduation rates, and so much more.

But these advantages come at a cost. And that cost has been rising over the past few years.

According to CNBC, almost two thirds of students playing in middle or high school sports paid to do so in 2012. Of those participants, only six percent received fee wavers.

In addition to participation costs, the cost of equipment has been spiraling upwards from 2013 to 2014. Lacrosse equipment alone saw a projected increase of 5.70 percent.

Parents want to provide what’s best for their children, even if that means dedicating a little more income to the cause. But will spending extra this year on youth sports make a positive difference?

According to the New York Times, the money, time and energy parents are spending on their young athletes is probably misplaced. Spending on sports has grown to almost 10.5 percent of gross income. Families bringing in $50,000 a year spend up to $5,500 just to have their children participate in sports.

With such large amounts at stake, the willingness to dedicate so much time, money and emotion needs to be examined carefully. So why is it happening?

The most common misguided justification: spending more money will result in higher college scholarship offers.

The truth is that the percentage of high school students who continue to play in college is extremely small – often under five percent. And the number of young athletes that receive school aid is even smaller – three percent. Parents are advised to consider what motivates them to contribute such heavy funds to youth sports before pursuing this course of action.

Investing for a scholarship? Weigh the child’s athletic ability against the probability of receiving a scholarship. Beware that spending too much money on youth sports might result in no scholarships and still having to pay the price of college tuition.

If participation in youth sports is based purely on scholarships consider investing in academics, a category that is much more likely to earn money for schooling.

Motivated by your child’s love for sports? Don’t deny your child something they love, but be careful and track your annual spending on sports. Too often families start youth sports for a fun activity, the child excels at the given activity, and participation in varying programs begins to take off with the snowball effect. At a time when participation costs are spiraling choose your activities wisely.

Have a opinion? Add your thoughts below and let us know what how you plan to handle the rising cost of youth sports.

The Dangers Of Coaching Your Child

It is possible to have a positive coaching experienceResearch has shown that parental involvement is a critical part of a child’s participation in sports. But is it possible to become too involved?

Parents who coach their own children make up 90% of all youth sport coaches. Motivation for this popular practice stems from a number of places: whether it be to spend more time with a child, to utilize a background in coaching, or simply to help the team. When handled correctly, coaching a child can be a wonderful experience.

A 2005 study by Weiss and Fretwell revealed that having a parent coach can be beneficial not only for the parent, but also for the child when involved in a supportive parent-coach/child-athlete relationship. The duo are able to spend more quality time together participating in an activity that both enjoy, therefore strengthening their bond. With a deeper understanding of their child, parents are able to make more informed coaching decisions based upon current moods and needs. In return, the child has the opportunity to receive individual technical instruction and added motivation.

However, many parents attempting to coach are learning the hard way that sometimes becoming too invested in their child’s team can lead to a negative experience for all involved parties.

The Danger Zone

When parents are unable to separate the role of mother/father from the role of coach, arguments on the field can lead to arguments at home. Being unable to move in and out of these roles will create strain not only in team relationships and family relationships – but the activity itself loses appeal.

The child may also begin to feel added pressure associated with their athletic performance. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when coaching your child is the perception of favoritism. In an attempt to treat each team member in a non-prejudicial manner, parents often overcompensate by becoming overly critical of their own children (Hughes). The child then feels as if they are on the receiving end of the coach’s anger when they don’t perform as expected. Studies show that not only does the child feel they are receiving more criticism, but teammates who witness the coach-athlete interactions also reinforce this belief.

The child-athlete may also begin to feel isolated from teammates. Young teammates may feel hesitant to share stories with the child in fear that they will repeat those conversations to the coach.

Proceed With Caution

To ensure that your coaching experience as a parent is as enjoyable as possible for both you and your child, be prepared to separate the role of coach from the role of parent.

  • Approach the situation without favoritism and be confident enough to be partial without being overly tough.
  • Have realistic expectations about your child’s abilities and discuss how your athlete feels about the coaching techniques being used.
  • Pay attention to the dynamics of your relationship with your child off of the field.

And most importantly, view this as an opportunity to have fun with your loved one.

What have you found with your own personal experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Does Specialization Lead To Scholarships?

Years ago, it was the norm for young athletesspecialization1 to test their skills at different sports according to the season. Football and soccer were played in the fall, basketball during the winter, and baseball in the spring. But with the number of indoor facilities and year-round leagues on the rise, specialization of youth sports is becoming an increasingly popular practice.

Today, millions of parents are hoping to prepare their children for athletic scholarships. Specialization in one specific sport at an early age may seem like the fast track to athletic success.

Focusing solely on one sport develops skills and coordination that are necessary to succeed in that specific sport. The child spends more time practicing, conditioning, and playing. Professional athletes such as Tiger Woods (who began playing golf at age 3) act as examples of the success that can be had by starting young.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

By specializing too young, athletes are putting themselves at risk for a large list of negative consequences.

At the top of that list are the physical overuse issues and chronic injuries. The repetitive movements of a single sport can cause muscle imbalances and tightness, leading to decreased performance. Chronic injuries such as tennis elbow, stress fractures, and ACL injuries become increasingly common.

Beginning to specialize early also contributes to emotional and psychological factors. Young athletes often put immense pressure on themselves to succeed. Specializing puts all of that pressure into one specific activity and may cause devastation and psychological burnout when they fail. Young athletes may begin to feel a loss of control over their own lives, with serious repercussions including depression, chronic fatigue, and eating disorders (Balyi, Way & Higgs).

Does specializing increase the odds of college scholarships?

The Huffington Post found that college coaches actually prefer to recruit multi-sport athletes. Young athletes who start out playing multiple sports tend to be highly athletic and still haven’t peaked. Most players who specialized in their youth are already reaching their burnout phase.

A study performed in 2008 administered surveys to 71 NCAA Division I-AA and Division I program athletes. Of the participants, 24% did not start playing sports until they were between 9-12+ years old, proving that you don’t need to start at age 3 to be successful. The average number of sports played prior to high school was 4, with 83% of participants playing at least 3. Only 2.8% specialized.

The ideal approach is to specialize at an older age, which often results in higher performance levels than those who specialize while younger. Players are less likely to experience burn out; their movement patterns and decision-making skills are better because they are involved in a range of activities that challenge their cognitive and physical functions; And they still have the opportunity to specialize in college to develop one sport to the fullest.

“The more sports youth practice at young ages, the greater ease they feel when eventually selecting one sport that suits their mental makeup and body composition. If they choose to specialize, they will know the sport in which they will excel.” – Balyi, Way & Higgs

Becoming wrapped up in the goal of college athletic scholarships has distracted many of us from what is truly important in youth sports. Encourage children to try different activities, teach them teamwork, and watch them have fun.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Urban Youth Introduced To Non-Traditional Sports

Most children are familiar with traditional sports such as soccer, basketball, and baseball; however, urban youth sports are very limited and many kids do not have access to other sports like rowing and golf.

Fortunately, times have changed – two organizations in Wilmington, DE are striving to help introduce these sports to urban youth.

First Tee Wilmington participants“We are a positive youth development program that teaches life skills and healthy habits through the game,” said Charma Bell, who is program director for The First Tee of Delaware, a youth golf camp.

According to Delaware Public Media, Bell said that “playing golf requires persistence, confidence and courtesy, attributes which can benefit the kids their whole lives and more immediately.”

The First Tee’s biggest success story is that of Darius Smith, a PGA certified instructor in Florida. The Wilmington native “took advantage of the educational programs promoting character development” at The First Tee, which enabled him to get to where he is today.

Similarly, Faith Pizor, Executive Director of Wilmington Youth Rowing Association, also strives to provide urban youth with the opportunity to get involved in non-traditional athletics. To their surprise, WYRA discovered that the level of interest was not as high as they hoped it would be since so many of the children didn’t know how to swim.

Despite this minor setback, WYRA created a camp called ‘Row For It’ which was a success. WYRA and its camp have quite the impressive assortment of colleges recruiting their athletes; The University of Delaware, Harvard, Princeton, and Rutgers all make up the list of colleges that have provided the organization with scholarships.

City youth aren’t the only ones benefitting from these programs. Pizor pointed out that “kids from more privileged backgrounds also get a lot out of partnering with kids from different backgrounds.”

“They suddenly see that life is a lot different for a lot of kids and it’s a real eye opener,” she said. “We’ve had a number of parents say that they hope kids from minority groups learn something from the interaction but that their kids got a great deal out of this because they saw what America is really like in certain areas and how difficult it is for some of these kids.”