Playing team sports is more than child's play. It can pay big benefits for children later on in their adult work lives.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health (June, 2015) found when children played a structured sport with a coach in kindergarten, they were better able to stay focused and follow directions by the time they were in the fourth grade.
"That's important, because students who are more engaged in class tend to work more cooperatively, demonstrate more self-confidence, and follow directions and rules - behaviors that get honed in childhood and adolescence and pay dividends into adulthood," reported CBC News in Canada.
Team players learn life lessons
The YMCA also touts the "important life lessons" of team sports, "including positive competition, fair play, the value of participation over winning, teambuilding, positive self-image and mutual respect for others in a fun and engaging environment."
Most children get their first opportunities to play on a team in physical education classes. Students from kindergarten through high school gain skills and become more fit while participating on volleyball, softball, soccer and basketball teams. Team players have improved academics and 50% become active in team sports outside of school, reports PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today), a national organization that promotes physical education.
Girls benefit from team sports, too
Though boys have traditionally been more involved in team sports, it's just as important for girls to get in the game. Since the 1972 Title IX education amendment gave girls the right to equal participation in sports programs, their participation in high school sports has increased by 990%, reports the Women‘s Sports Foundation. Another indication of how far women's sports have come was the record viewership of the U.S. women's soccer team's 2015 FIFA World Cup championship. The national celebration culminated in a successful push for a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
In a 2011 Forbes magazine article, "The Secret to Being a Power Woman: Play Team Sports," Sue Rodin, founder of Women in Sports and Events (WISE), said, "In team sports, [women] learn to share roles and work together towards a common goal, which is a tremendous lesson in the workplace."
Sports statistics can teach math skills
Since sports is all about statistics and keeping score, it can also be brought into the classroom to teach math. At the University of Kansas Center for STEM Learning, teachers Steven Obenhaus and Carrie La Voy challenge students during March Madness to figure out, "What is the sharpest angle a basketball can travel entering the rim and still hit nothing but net?"
Students work as a team to figure the rim's circumference, draw scale models and use trigonometry to get the answer. There's "power and excitement" in teaching math this way, Steven says.
Finding youth teams in your area
Many organizations provide helpful information and offer online locator guides:
- The YMCA provides soccer, volleyball, baseball, basketball, tennis and swim teams.
- Contact your city recreation department for information on girls' and boys' baseball, underhand softball, soccer, basketball and other team sports.
- Special Olympics provides training and competition in team sports for kids with intellectual disabilities.
Lessons learned through team sports can serve students well as they prepare to compete in the game of life.