Learning is a full-time job for children, but so often their days are filled with other activities like sports. Some parents question whether these extra-curricular activities might take time away from studying or hurt their child's academic performance. The truth is, there are several reasons you should encourage your child to join a sports team. Not only do sports help children stay active and healthy, but they also make a difference in academics, both now, and in the future.
If you're debating whether to let your child play a sport or you're questioning if you made the right decision when you're picking your child up from a late practice or sitting in the cold watching a game, remind yourself of the following:
1. Children involved in sports perform better academically. It may seem like this would be hard because kids who play sports usually have less time to study and do homework, but it's a phenomenon that many parents notice. Sometimes having less free time forces children to manage their time better which can result in better grades too. Also, a report from the Institute of Medicine explains that kids who are very active excel in areas of attention, cognitive processing, and performance on standardized tests.
2. Kids who play sports are more likely to go to college and achieve a higher degree. A study by the US Department of Health showed that students who played sports in school were more likely to get a bachelor's degree. Students who were in a leadership role on the team, such as a captain or MVP, tended to secure higher leadership positions in future employment.
3. Sports help children develop other character traits that transfer over to the classroom. Leadership and the ability to work cooperatively with peers increases when kids play sports. These skills are useful in the classroom as well. Sports players often have higher self-esteem which can influence their ability to persevere when things get tough. They also learn how to cheer for others and serve as an encouragement to those around them–another perk that extends to the classroom!
4. Kids who play sports are less likely to choose risky behavior which could derail their academic career. A recent study in Iceland found the number of teens engaged in drinking alcohol dropped from 42% (in 1998) to 5% after the country started offering more opportunities to get involved with sports and other after-school activities. Kids involved with athletics don't have a lot of idle time on their hands to get involved in drug and alcohol usage. It also helps to have another layer of accountability to their coaches and teammates. Avoiding these dangerous behaviors prevents kids from declining academically as well.
Some children are naturally interested in physical activity and sports, while others shy away from athletics. Children can usually find a sport they enjoy when given the opportunity to try several different things. Many students find they enjoy sports that give them the opportunity to compete individually, rather than as a team. In sports like track or swimming, athletes can strive to improve their times without pressure from an entire team. In gymnastics and golf, athletes focus more on their individual games. As students improve their individual performance, the team as a whole will benefit.
Parents may question whether sports are a good idea when they're up late helping their child with homework or a science project, but, in the long run, the benefits outweigh any inconvenience and prepare children to excel on and off the field.
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