In the US, about 35% of children and teens are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Childhood obesity can have multiple harmful effects on the body, such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, as well as social issues like stigmatization.
To combat obesity, parents need to make sure their children get enough exercise, and sports provide more than just improvements in body composition and weight.
Here are just a few of the benefits of organized sports:
Increase self-esteem – being part of a team allows kids to learn to give and receive praise from teammates and from their coach, which boosts their confidence and self-image.
Build strong relationships – when teammates work together towards a collective goal, while sharing the joy of success and struggle in defeat, this builds lasting bonds that can persist even into adulthood. It also teaches children teamwork.
Develop critical thinking – each sport has their own tactics, strategy, and approaches to consider. Learning to come up with a plan and implementing it teaches children to exercise their mind in addition to their body.
Learn how to deal with disappointments – children are taught to improve through constructive criticism, learn to how lose gracefully, and recognize that life isn’t always fair. When a wrong call is made, children are taught to accept it and move on rather than complain and dwell on the error.
Appreciate hard work and perseverance – children learn that nothing worth having comes easy. Talent obviously plays a part, but children will quickly learn that hard work and dedication is the best path to success.
Have fun – being a kid means having fun, and sports is one way to do that.
Despite the advantages of team sports, many children today end up spending way too much time glued to the TV and drawn to video games. Here are tips on getting them involved in team sports:
Start early – the ideal age to start participation in organized sports, based on attention and ability, is 6-7 years old, although certain sports can begin earlier. Get your kids involved even earlier, by taking them outside each day, even just for a walk, day at the playground, or stroll on the beach.
Give them a choice – if a child doesn’t know what they like, try choosing three or four sports, explain what each sport entails, and let them choose. Once they decide on a sport, give them a brief overview on the terminology and rules of the game.
Find resources – the Kauai Family Magazine is a great place to start. Ask other parents, teachers, and neighbors what their children do. The Kauai County website also lists many county – sponsored sports.
Discuss with your child – find out if they like running, jumping, throwing, or swimming and try to find a related sport. Show them videos of different sports and see what interests them. Consider whether they might do better in a team sport such as baseball, basketball, and soccer vs individual team sports such as martial arts, track, and swimming.
Teach them perseverance – a lot of times children might find themselves discouraged or dislike the rigors of practice and may want to quit. Push them hard to finish out the season. Often it takes time to build skills, make friendships, and see improvement. Having them push through is the first steps towards learning perseverance, which will help them later in life. If at the end of the season they still don’t enjoy it, there are many other sports they can still choose from.