In honor of National Youth Sports Week, we wanted to look at how an early love for athletics can lead to a healthier adulthood. Organized sports don’t just help with better physical condition though — they also can help improve a person’s mental and social well-being. When you look at the skills developed in team sports, it’s easy to see how it sets the foundation for a well-rounded individual.
Instills a sense of determination.
Youth sports teach us from an early age to have our sights set on a specific goal. Whether it’s literally kicking a field goal or successfully performing your part as a team player, you have to be determined to follow through and win a game. In a survey of 14 school districts, researchers found that 96% of dropouts didn’t participate in an athletic program. It’s also probably no coincidence that 95% of Fortune 500 executives participated in high school athletics. (Mark Zuckerberg was fencing captain, by the way.)
Puts an emphasis on the importance of fitness.
It makes sense that kids who learn to love physical activity have a better chance of keeping up with their physical health, even when that pesky metabolism starts to slow down. As we know, working out is all about consistency, so planting that seed early on can create a built-in routine that’s just part of everyday life.
Creates stronger social skills.
Simply getting involved with sports can improve a child’s social skills and interactions with others. Research has shown us a connection between higher confidence and improved listening skills from kids involved with sports, so there must be something to it.
Contributes to a healthier brain.
There’s no denying it — there’s a big link between our bodies and our brains. When we exercise, it increases metabolic demand. Our brain responds by increasing angiogenesis, which builds more capillary beds to transport blood and oxygen to different regions. It also builds more synapses between neurons, which increases the ability of different parts of the brain to talk to one another. So remember — an active body means a well-connected and healthier brain!
Empowers women in a big way.
One study revealed that out of 400 female C-suite executives, 94% had a background in sports. Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s former CEO said, “When I’m pulling a business team together, I still use those basketball aphorisms I learned as a young person.” Competitive sports help teach women the determination to break through to predominantly male-centric roles. It’s that same athletic mindset that allows them to achieve and maintain leadership positions.
If you have children who might be interested in sports, encourage them! It could end up positively shaping them in ways you never would have expected. Regardless whether they stick with it or not, they’ll have a whole new set of skills to apply later on in life.