Sport isn’t just good for children’s bodies; it’s good for their minds too. Studies have shown that sport has psychological benefits for children and adolescents and teaches them important life skills.
Organised sport has many psychological and social benefits for children – even more than the physical activity during play. Researchers think this is because children benefit from the social side of being in a team, and from the involvement of other children and adults.
Development from sport goes beyond learning new physical skills. Sport helps children develop better ways to cope with the highs and lows of life.
When they’re playing sport, children learn to lose. Being a good loser takes maturity and practice. Losing teaches children to bounce back from disappointment, cope with unpleasant experiences and is an important part of becoming resilient.
Playing sport helps children learn to control their emotions and channel negative feelings in a positive way. It also helps children to develop patience and understand that it can take a lot of practice to improve both their physical skills and what they do in school.
Physical activity has been shown to stimulate chemicals in the brain that make you feel better. So playing sport regularly improves children’s overall emotional wellbeing.
Research shows there’s a link between playing sport and self-esteem in children. The support of the team, a kind word from a coach, or achieving their personal best will all help children to feel better about themselves.
Playing in a team helps children to develop many of the social skills they will need for life. It teaches them to cooperate, to be less selfish, and to listen to other children.
It also gives children a sense of belonging. It helps them make new friends and builds their social circle outside school.
An important part of playing in a team is accepting discipline. Playing sport means children are expected to follow rules, accept decisions and understand that they could be penalised for bad behaviour. It teaches them to take directions from the coach, referees and other adults. Sport also teaches them about team work.
Parents play an important role in sports
To keep your child interested and enjoying sport, make it a positive experience for them. Focus on having fun, having a go and being active, rather than winning or losing.
You can help your child develop a positive sporting attitude by praising the team’s or other children’s efforts, even if they don’t win. Point out to your child how important it is to try and do their best.
Make sure your comments from the sidelines are positive, and don’t criticise children who make mistakes. Never abuse a team, umpire or other player.
Visit the Play by the Rules website for tips on creating a positive sporting environment for your child.
The Play by the Rules website also has a suite of resources to promote awareness of poor sideline behaviour. These resources are part of Let Kids be Kids, a national campaign that addresses poor sideline behaviour in junior sport.
You can also visit the Raising Children Network website to learn more about children and sports in Australia.
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Last reviewed: February 2020