In addition to improving children’s general levels of physical fitness, playing sport provides other, perhaps less obvious, opportunities. Sport will help children to: –
- Understand the importance of healthy living.
When children are interested in sport, they will be more aware of what a healthy diet looks like, the dangers of smoking, and the consequence of adopting a sedentary life style.
- Develop self-discipline and the ability to delay gratification.
Children will learn how to listen carefully, follow instructions, respect other players, develop self-control, self-discipline and concentration. Sporty individuals take a long-term view to their progress, understanding that there is no such thing as a quick fix.
- Release stress.
The hormones that are released when an individual feels under stress are burnt off during physical activity. The hormones do not remain in the body, manifesting themselves in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches and general malaise.
- Develop motivation.
Every child will be able to find a sport to motivate them. The sport will provide targets to work towards. This will give the child experience in planning for the long term, breaking challenges down into small steps, and maintaining effort over time.
- Develop self-esteem.
Playing sport will always improve a child’s self-confidence.
- Cope with failure.
Life is competitive and sport gives children experience of coping with failure in small, manageable doses. Resilience is essential at all levels of sport.
- Extend their friendship groups.
Sports clubs offer the child a perfect environment for establishing friendships with others with similar interests. Anyone involved in a sport club outside school will have a wide set of friends.
- Feel included.
There is a sport for everyone. Children and young people with Aspergers may prefer individual sports such as swimming, orienteering, climbing and distance running. Those with ADHD will benefit from the development of self control and focus through martial arts. Children with dyspraxia will benefit from sports that encourage the development of core muscles and stability, perhaps dance, trampolining or horse riding.
- Understand the advantages of collaboration and team work.
Players in any team will listen to the advice of others and take note of their opinions. The team is always more important than the individual.
- Make independent decisions.
The individual can choose their personal level of challenge within a sport. Sport can be high risk: motocross, pot holing or parkour, or low risk: snooker, darts or archery. Some individuals will gain a sense of achievement from diving from the side of a swimming pool for fifty years without feeling any need to progress to higher diving boards or to introduce turns, twists or somersaults to their dives.