With busy working lives it can sometimes be difficult to motivate ourselves, let alone our children; but getting our kids involved in sports during free time, especially if that sport involves being part of a team, can be particularly beneficial.
Psychologists believe that participating in team sports can be a fantastic tool in increasing a child’s self esteem. Through team building and healthy competition, children get the chance to leave their comfort zone and try new things. As they become more and more competent at mastering new skills, self esteem and confidence will increase.
A positive self-esteem is important for children because it directly impacts the way they behave on a day-to-day basis. It affects success in school, friendships with other children, confidence levels, and ability to deal with problems and difficulties.
Children also get the opportunity to widen their social circle. Being part of a team automatically means that a certain amount of time is spent with the same group of people. While it should be noted that we can’t expect everyone to be best friends and some conflict may occur occasionally, it is likely that a child will find at least a few team members with whom they will bond. A shared goal and a shared love of a sport will give children a common interest right from the start.
Developing a passion for a sport will also give children a subject for conversation even when they are not in their team setting. In most social circumstances, if a child has something that they are able to talk about with enthusiasm, they will more easily be able to hold a conversation both with other children and with adults.
Children, who play sports, especially during adolescence, have a better body image than their peers who do not. All the health benefits of sports such as improved muscle tone, greater stamina and better weight control, all promote positive self-image.
Participating in sport helps to encourage children to adopt more healthy habits. Children who develop healthy exercise habits from a young age are more likely to continue to lead a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. Being part of a team usually requires a commitment to regular exercise and regular training; this commitment is more likely to be adhered to as there is a sense of responsibility to other team members and children will not wish to let their teammates down by not attending.
It’s never too early to encourage your child to learn about responsibility, both for themselves and also towards other people. As part of a team, each member will often have assigned tasks, whether it be setting up and clearing away equipment, helping with organisation, or giving out kit. There are also other tasks, which team members will learn to do without being asked such as helping out younger members of the team.
Having responsibility, and feeling that they are positively contributing to something that really matters to them makes children feel important and worthwhile. They will feel that their input and opinions are valued, and that they are a necessary ‘cog in the wheel’.
Participating in sports as part of a team can also encourage children to be more accepting of mistakes and failure. As a team, mistakes are shared and failures are shared, as long as a blame culture doesn’t develop amongst teammates.
Encouraging children to deal with mistakes and failure in a healthy way whereby they can work through the event and reach a positive outcome rather than dwelling on what has happened and getting caught up in blaming themselves can have an enormously positive outcome for their mental health both as children and moving into adulthood. Being able to do this is a critical life skill, which can determine the on going happiness of your child.
Bearing in mind all the benefits of team sports, it seems unfortunate that it has recently been revealed that more than a third of teachers report a reduction in time set aside for PE in schools over the past 2 years. A lack of funding and too much pressure on time were the two main reasons given for this.
Although plans have now been announced to improve funding for competitive team sports in schools, we really can’t be sure to what extent these figures will improve.
Therefore, as parents and carers, as much as we would like to sit and put our feet up when relaxation time is so scarce, it seems the benefits there are to gain from getting our children involved in team sports may be well worth donning our ‘mums taxi’ cap for and making that investment in our kids futures.