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CHARACTERISTIC – Participating in and watching sports have long been traditions in most cultures, bringing people together from all walks of life. Participation in sports can build character in young people and benefit them in many ways, but parents who want to provide enriching opportunities for their children may have questions about the pros and cons of sports.
What if a child doesn’t care about the competition that comes with organized sports? What if they get hurt? Is there a way to keep young people physically active outside of sports? Consider this list of pros and cons.
Benefits of playing sports: Participating can help prevent obesity through regular physical activity. About 75% of young Americans play sports. Exposure to many sports is physically and mentally beneficial for young children. It’s a great way for youngsters to have fun. This reduces screen time, boredom eating, and mental health issues.
Athletes are more likely to do well in school, avoid drugs and make healthier food choices. Girls are less likely to experience teenage pregnancies when participating in sports. Coaching does not require any special training, certification or skill for most adults who want to fill the role. Sports build character, the ability to work well with others, and mutual respect among peers.
Disadvantages of exercising: The risk of injury is high. At 15, 80% of young people stop playing sports. Too much emphasis can be placed on winning and being highly skilled. Busy schedules lead to eating more processed and less healthy meals. Disparities in adolescent sport participation exist between races. The cost can be a burden on families.
Lack of adult training can lead to sports injuries and youth attrition. Negative experiences can arise with coaches. The development of character, teamwork and respect can only happen if coaches and parents teach these values to young athletes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) recommends young people ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes of physical activity that increases heart rate at least five times a week. If your child isn’t interested in sports, there are other ways to encourage regular physical activity. Keep in mind that young people are more likely to engage in physical activity when it is enjoyable and fun.
While you’re looking for ways to help your child be active, talk to them to find out their interests. What does your child like to do? What would they like to try? Alternatives to sports that can help your child stay physically active and healthy include: hiking, biking, dancing, neighborhood night games, jumping rope, boxing or martial arts, research and fossil exploration, swimming, neighborhood scavenger hunts, gardening, jumping/exercise on trampoline and hula hoop contests.
For more ideas on ways to get the family moving, check out the USU Extension Hidden Gems Adventure Guides.
Click here to see references and resources.
Written by EVA TIMOTHY, assistant extension professor at Utah State University.