Benefits of Youth Athletics
by Molly Breitsprecher, PT, DPT
As a child, I can recall participating in multiple sports throughout the year. I enjoyed the friendships and skills I learned that still benefit me today. It even helped open doors towards my future profession. I am often disappointed when a young person tells me they don’t participate in any sort of sport. Even more so when parents don’t seem concerned. The prevalence of busy parent schedules, technology/gaming, and low motivation to be outdoors all contribute to this phenomenon.
To help encourage greater participation, here is a list of benefits to youth athletics:
Physical Activity: Exercise is good for the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Running, jumping, kicking and throwing all increases our heart rate. With training and repetition, this can improve our endurance for more challenging physical tasks. Our bones and muscles can benefit from the weight-bearing, strengthening and stretching that come with warm-up, game time and cool down activities. These help our bodies stay in normal alignment, especially during a child’s growth spurt, and decrease the risk of scoliosis, knee pain or other common adolescent injuries.
Socialization: In sports, we learn how to share, take turns, encourage others, work as a part of a team, be respectfully competitive, challenge each other and most of all have fun! We learn that sometimes sacrifices have to be made (early morning practices or missing out on a fun event) in order to reach goals! These practices are applicable way beyond the ballpark; the same behaviors are favored in the workplace and classrooms of later life.
Variety: Encouraging multi-sport participation has shown to decrease the risk for overuse injuries in young athletes. Even if some sports are more favored by your child, a variety of sports throughout the year keeps kids active and teaches coordination, agility and balance beyond a ‘one note’ performance!
Reducing Risks: Research has shown over and over that the best treatment for conditions such as fibromyalgia or other chronic pain is gentle, progressive exercise. It introduces a person to ‘normal/exercise’ soreness versus ‘injury’ pain. With this exposure, it can decrease the risk of fear-avoidance in response to pain, which often is heightened in those with chronic pain.
So, why wouldn’t a parent set up their child for the type of success that can come from sport participation? I hope this encourages everyone to get outside and play catch a little more often! Your kids deserve it! The earlier kids can have positive experiences with exercise, the more likely they are to keep these habits as they grow. Further, they can build a network of teammates with similar goals to keep each other accountable to exercise as adults.