Sports: More than just playing the game

Article written by Vickie LeFlore, Positive Youth Development Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Engaging in sports can have a positive influence on youth development.

Research has consistently shown when students are more engaged, the more likely they are to stay in school and have a positive outlook.

One way in which students gain a sense of connectedness to their school is through sports.

According to an Ohio University study, more than 7.8 million youth in 2014-15 participated in high school sports. Participation in athletics has more than just the physical benefits; there are a great deal of social benefits, as well.

In the study, 88% of youth experienced improvement in their physical health and 73% reported enhancement in their mental well-being.

Participation in sports activities has shown a correlation of reduced participation in risky behavior for youth, according to a report in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Student athletes through their participation in sports commit to their team by:

Maintaining academic standards.
Attending practices and games.

Maintaining a certain level of behavioral expectations and discipline.

Showing support to their teammates.

These are all qualities that support building a more positive self-esteem and character in youth.

Student athletes often have to invest a great deal of time in the sports they play. This can be time that negates from being involved in less desirable behaviors and activities.

When a student is a part of a sports team, it provides a sense of belonging and accomplishment for the individual, which can directly impact one’s self-esteem. Even through loss, youth learn resilience and develop problem-solving skills.

The coaches who build these youth-adult partnerships play a major role in guiding these young players and helping them understand how the lessons of the game and teamwork reach far beyond just playing the sport.

Local coaches like Michael Holden, boys varsity basketball assistant coach at Bradford High School, and Brandon Morris, head varsity boys basketball coach at St. Joseph Catholic Academy, know the positive power of being involved in sports and being role models to the young men they work with. The impacts sports had on them influenced them to want to go back to their alma maters and pour into a younger generation of student athletes.
When students participate in athletics, they not only demonstrate a sense of pride for their team but also for themselves. Student athletes learn valuable tools and life lessons way beyond just playing the game.

Getting involved in sports can have lasting impacts through social bonds like friendships, school connectedness and increased self-efficacy.

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