Many parents expect and encourage their children to excel in academics. This emphasis may be so great that these children find no time for sporting activities. While the expectations of the parents and society might be realized in the short term, the pressure piled upon these children might have long-term psychological effects. Studies have shown that a balanced engagement in sports can not only boost academic performance but that there can be long-term psychological and physical benefits to youths who engage in them. (Rachel Jewetta, 2014)

A study conducted by Rachel Jewetta (and others) of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada observed that participating in school sports can ward off mental issues later on in early adulthood. How does this come about?


The Effects of Sports on Growth and Development

Physical Benefits

A youth who engages in active physical activities is less likely to have weight problems. Physical fitness can be a source of building self-esteem and enhanced overall health. Such a youth is more likely to enter adulthood with a more positive outlook on life and self than another who is generally physically unfit. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy body mass index has been shown to have general health benefits such as an improved mood and lower day-to-day fatigue.

Positive Behavior

Youths who engage in active sports are more likely to resist engaging in risky behavior. For example, they are not as likely to take dangerous drugs or other volatile agents. They are also not likely to carry a lethal weapon. These positive social behaviors remain into adulthood. (Pate RR, 2000)

A Sense of Accomplishment

Youths who engage in sports are likely to advance in or even master such a sport. According to Jack Raglin, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at Indiana University-Bloomington, such an achievement can offer the long-term psychological benefit accomplishment brings self-respect and confidence.

Better Interpersonal Relationships

Sports involve teamwork where participants have different personalities and may also be from different backgrounds. Despite this, teammates learn to work together for a common goal. This quality and attitude are likely to remain past formative years and into adulthood.


All sports have rules and regulations on how to play fairly and how to treat other players. Successful players have to adhere to these requirements. As the saying goes, ‘repeated actions form a habit’ – such players have these qualities ingrained in their psyche and are likely to display them in other areas of their lives in their youth and later. Youth programs that specifically focus on fostering a stable environment where students of all abilities can compete and learn how best to treat others are particularly beneficial, for example the youth basketball training provided by MOKAN Basketball in Overland Park, Kansas.

Youth Sports Prepare Players for Life’s Realities

Sports are about winning, losing or getting a draw. The mental strength to accept results whichever way they go helps youths to be in a better position when later dealing with circumstances in life where their expectations might be realized or dashed. Being able to accept defeat graciously is an important skill for life, and learning to keep working against adversity fosters a strong character.

Development of Greater Values

Sports inculcate unselfishness and promote participation for a greater cause. This has immediate results when teams work together to achieve something. In the long-term, this outlook creates growth in the youth’s psychological, emotional and social fields.

There are many more studies that have been carried out on this topic and the results consistently show that youth sports benefit youngsters immediately and long after into their adult life. One review (Rochelle M Eime, 2013) in particular recommends community sport participation in the form of leisure time physical activity for adolescents and children to fight the child obesity epidemic, but also for the positive social health and psychological health outcomes.



Pate RR, T. S. (2000). Sports participation and health-related behaviors among US youth. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 904-11.

Rachel Jewetta, C. M. (2014). School Sport Participation During Adolescence and Mental Health in Early Adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 640-644.

Rochelle M Eime, J. A. (2013). A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10-98.

Merkel, D. L. (2013). Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 4, 151–160.

Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health. (2014, July 1). Mental health wins when teens play school sports. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 24, 2017 from

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