As a child I grew up in a very sportive family. I had the privilege to participate in so many different sports in my life at an early age. To be precise, from classical ballet (the most gracious sport, being inspired by my mother) to off-road motorbike racing (the riskier sport, being inspired by my father). In between there were other 11, summer as well as winter sports, that I took part in, some of them on a competitive level. In hindsight, I realised that learning sports early on as a child, helped me to tackle the challenge in an easy and fearless way. At that time, I didn’t think that I might get injured, that I might feel exhausted afterwards or that I would not always be the winner. I was simply happy to learn a new sport, to do something exciting with others and just have fun throughout the process, either as an individual or as a team member.
Learning sports early on as a child can be very beneficial in many ways. As a mother, I’m very keen on passing on this passion for physical exercise to my own daughter. It doesn’t really matter how well a child excels in a particular sport, the benefits remain generally the same. I admit, if your child keeps on under performing on a constant basis, it might be more harmful rather than useful to encourage them any further. In that case, you might re-consider whether sports is really something that you want your child to focus on. However, there are lots of positive benefits, on a social, physical and emotional level, that kids will learn in their sportive journey.
# 1 – The fun factor. Especially in team sports, such as cricket, volleyball, hockey etc. engaging in some sport can be real fun and give them a sense of belonging to a group. They have an opportunity to meet like-minded friends with the same interests and goals.
# 2 – Increased self-esteem. Research has shown that kids (particularly girls) have a higher self-esteem and positive body image when playing sports.
# 3 – It has been said that those who do sports are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs. They become aware of the negative consequences that these destructive activities can have on them.
# 4 – Physical activities can also help to reduce depression, lead to less stress and help to become more psychologically resilient (being able to recover from problems more easily). Learning sports early on as a child can also help to reduce loneliness, isolation and shyness.
# 5 – Sports can also help kids to become more disciplined. Learning how to set goals, persistence, resilience and working hard to achieve those goals are all important lessons that will be learnt in the process too.
# 6 – The more experiences kids gain in losing competitions, the better prepared they will be to deal with other difficult situations in their lives later on. Being a great winner is not difficult. The art consists in being a gracious loser. Not everyone is able to deal easily with defeat.
# 7 – Statistics have shown that being involved in sports while in school, is more likely to lead to academic success in higher education. Playing sport leads to a lower drop-out rate among students. It has been associated with getting higher grades in school on a consistent basis and more years of education are being completed.
# 8 – Team working and leadership skills on how to work together as a team, in order to win games, will be learnt quickly. There is no doubt about it!
# 9 – Motor skills and strategic thinking skills is a further benefit. Kids learn how to score a goal, how to figure out plays and how to get around a player.
# 10 – Having a child that started playing sports at a young age will increase the chances that it will continue this trend also in adulthood. In that sense, regular exercise can also improve a person’s quality of life by keeping in shape and healthy.
# 11 – The improvement of social skills is also evident. They will get used to not only interact with kids of the same age, but with older individuals, such as coaches and sports officials. At the same time, they will learn about the importance of respecting others, such as sports mates, referees, sports officials and opponents. This will be very beneficial later on in their lives, when they are dealing with their boss or other public authorities.
# 12 – Parents might not realise it, but their kids’ sportive activities might even motivate them to get more physically active as well. Thus, spending more time with their kids having fun and doing something meaningful to keep fit, is surely positive.
# 13 – It is also reassuring for parents to know that their kids do something that keeps them physically fit and healthy; rather than spending excessive time in front of a TV, being a couch potato or playing computer games.
No matter what sports a young child chooses, the skills that will be acquired in the process will be beneficial later on in life in other areas, such as work, school, family. They are highly useful and can have a considerable impact on a person’s success and life. As Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach, once stated “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defences, or the problems of modern society.”