Whether you’re a keen armchair spectator or a participant, sports are a universal language guaranteed to get the heart racing and the blood pumping. From China’s passion for basketball to the cricket craze in India and Bangladesh, closer to home, it’s the AFL and Rugby that trump them all – especially as we head towards the big NRL, AFL and Women’s League finals. And while gathering with friends on finals day is a lot of fun, the magic happens when we get active and participate. And while the uptake of outdoor team sports like soccer, basketball, cricket, netball, footy and rugby remains high amongst our kids, unfortunately, many are now favouring sports participation via a device. So much so that Australian kids are sadly ranked amongst the least active in the world. Getting involved in sports from an early age has plenty of benefits for our health and wellbeing – both as children and as we navigate the path into adulthood. Here’s why:
Things often don’t go exactly to plan in team sports – with things like injuries and penalties throwing curve balls that require us to adapt quickly. This ability to accept setbacks and experience facing the highs and lows of winning and losing is a crucial life lesson. It helps kids build initiative, resilience and confidence, with one study showing that kids who play team sports are better able to call on internal sources of motivation than those that don’t.
Team sports teach us the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. It encourages us to lift each other up for the greater good, embrace each other’s differences and work towards being successful together. Throughout our lives, we’ll depend on others (and them on us) and participating in team sports at an early age builds up our ability to challenge and develop these skills in a fun and engaging way.
Get coordinated quicker
Coordination helps us master many daily tasks (from feeding ourselves to tying shoelaces), and playing sports helps us develop motor skills and neural pathways essential to coordination. But if you weren’t sporty as a kid, it’s not too late. Even as an adult, you can improve your coordination skills by participating in sports. Sharp coordination becomes increasingly important as we age, as it helps us avoid injuries that occur because of slowed reactions. Maintaining coordination as an adult has also been shown to improve our ability to concentrate.
Real-time problem-solving and quick thinking is a by-product of participating in sports that will help you land on your feet as an adult. Getting involved in sports allows kids to learn these skills in a safe environment before facing real-world adult problems. Whether it’s tossing up which type of sport they want to play for the season or making quick-fire decisions on the field, developing strong problem-solving skills arms kids with a competency they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
From attending footy practice to managing sport commitments, being part of a team teaches us discipline. Often social events might need to be sacrificed to be part of a team; learning this as a kid helps solidify our ability to prioritise and accept that we can’t always have it all. Respect and playing by the rules are also an aspect of discipline that we learn through sport – and in society, there are plenty of rules to follow! Understanding the importance of rules is invaluable, whether it’s laws, school rules or employment policies.
Broadening social circles and making new friends is a huge benefit both kids and adults can experience from team sports. As a child, it helps us build up our ability to read non-verbal clues, cooperate, listen to others, and build a sense of belonging. Joining a sports team as an adult provides you with a unique set of friends you’ll see often. You’ll share a sense of camaraderie and celebrate highs and lows together, and it can also be a great way to dodge the dating apps and meet someone with similar interests.
Boost overall wellbeing
With proven stress and anxiety-reducing properties, getting involved in team sports has physical benefits and positively impacts your mental health. An Australian study found that women who played tennis and netball in clubs had better mental health than those who exercised alone. When you’re focusing on participating in a team sport, you naturally set your worries aside, which can have a meditative effect – it clears your mind and calms you down. As with any physical activity, it releases mood-boosting endorphins, contributes to physical well-being, and can aid sleep.
Everyone wins by getting involved
Whether you’re ready with your supporter gear and favourite team colours, heading out to watch a game, gathering around the big screen, or set on helping to shape the next AFL or Rugby star, making sports a priority in your family is guaranteed to inject fun and help teach your kids some invaluable lifelong lessons.