Beyond the Physical Benefits of Sports for Kids

Proud parents have fun watching their kids run around the bases, achieve their first karate belt or cheer on the home team.

Competitive, organized and individual sports for children have been around for a long time, but families are now recognizing the benefits associated with participation. Aside from the obvious physical benefits of exercise and healthy activity, organized and structured sports activities spur creativity, boost self esteem and discourage harmful behavior. Discover the benefits from these four sports.

Soccer:

Soccer encourages interaction and develops team-building skills. Not only is the concept simple and easy to learn, but game play requires the participation of everyone out on the field, and each player may contribute regardless of his or her skill level.

This type of team sport fosters responsibility as children understand that their attendance and decisions will impact the entire team. Social skills are also developed as this is one sport that truly requires a team mentality, and valuable friendships may be formed.

Martial Arts:

Aside from self-defense benefits, martial arts teaches kids self-control and respect. Learning non-violent, self preservation skills allows children to express themselves in healthy physical activity, learning to respect themselves and others in the process.

Martial arts improves concentration and focus, and has also been known to aid children with learning disabilities, ADHD, ADD and hyperactivity through its structured training program.

Gymnastics:

Gymnastics is an excellent choice to help children overcome fears. Balance beams, rings and tumbling may be frightening to a young child, but trainers teach children trust by using spotting techniques, and gradually building confidence through consistent practice.

Several lifelong benefits include hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, listening skills, time management practices, discipline, dedication, and cognitive skills. Gymnastics has been reported to benefit children with Down's syndrome and autism.

Baseball:

America's favorite pastime not only encourages teamwork, but teaches youngsters the importance of practice and perseverance. Add in balance, coordination, responsibility and concentration as young players learn to "keep their eye on the ball" and determine which outfielder should "call" a fly ball.

Sportsmanship is also an important life lesson learned as typically players shake hands on the field and declare "good game" to other team members after the final pitch.

Parents should talk with their children to discover what kinds of sports activities interest them. No matter the final decision, parents should remain engaged in their child's life by sitting through practices, going to games or matches, getting active at home and keeping the lines of communication open.

Now play ball!


Memphis Children's Recreation Examiner Tanya Turner is a happy mom and wife, marketing professional, freelance writer and Twitter addict.

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