By Heather Bjork

September – school starting back and the start of soccer and football season. Fans of both sports are passionate in their love of these games. One does not have to look very far to spot people wearing football or soccer apparel around the Triad. Sports are an important part of most people’s lives, and they are commonly discussed at home, with friends, in the workplace, in cyber space and through any form of media that we come in contact with on a daily basis. As such, it seems we would be doing our children a disservice to not expose them to different sports and give them an opportunity to experience playing different sports. If you have not yet provided your child with the chance to get involved in a sport, think again. Even if you are not a “sports” person yourself, there are multiple benefits to allowing your child to play sports.

•Physical activity – With the rising rate of childhood obesity in today’s generation of children, this takes on additional significance. Research shows that children that consistently participate in sports are less likely to be overweight. Children that receive regular exercise are more likely to continue this practice in adulthood. Additionally physical activity improves mood and releases “endorphins” which make us feel good.

•Enhanced social skills -Your child will practice sharing, supporting, befriending, and helping others. All of these are important skills needed to establish and build healthy relationships with other people.

•Increased self confidence -Research also shows that children that play sports, especially girls, are more likely to have higher self-esteem and a better body image.

•Improved self-discipline skills -Children need to commit to attending practice, being a “good team player” which means sometimes having to put their needs and interests at a lower priority than their teammates and it requires hard work to achieve one’s goals.

•More effective time management skills -Children learn how to manage their schedules so that they can complete their homework, attend practices and games and still have discretionary time to spend as they would like.

•Better teamwork skills -Children begin to understand the part that each person plays in the team’s success/failure while learning how to effectively communicate with a wide variety of other children with styles different from their own.

•“Life skills” -It’s never too early to learn that sometimes things work out the way you want in life. How you play the game is even more important than winning or losing. Character and behavior count and matter, especially when it comes to relationships.

•Academic success -Research shows that children involved in sports tend to perform better in school than children not involved in sports, possibly because of self-discipline and time management skills.

•Refined problem solving skills -Sports frequently require strategy and there are obstacles to one’s goals given the nature of competition. Thus, children need to figure out how to deal with challenges that arise within the framework that exists.

•Better flexibility -The changing nature of most sports requires children to learn how to adapt and respond quickly to new situations. As a result, children become better able to anticipate change and quickly determine the best course of action.

•FUN -With the high importance placed on achievement, particularly academic accomplishments, it’s important for children to have the chance to just be in the moment and enjoy themselves. As long as there is not overriding pressure and an emphasis on winning, children will enjoy the experience they have playing sports and being part of a team.

Don’t miss out on the chance to get your child involved today. There are lots of great options out there – martial arts, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, swimming, tennis, and many, many more. Ask your child what he/she enjoys and help your child match his/her interest to a sport. If your child loves to be in the water, swimming or diving would be an excellent choice. Does your have good eye-hand coordination or even need to develop it more? Then baseball, tennis, golf, or tennis might be a great starting point. Does your child love to catch? Consider lacrosse. It is not too late to sign up for these activites. The options are plentiful and the Internet is a great resource to identify different options available to your child.

By helping your child experience sports in a “safe and non-judgmental” environment, you will be providing many great benefits to your child. Who knows, your child could end up becoming the next Tiger Woods!