South Africans love their sport and sport plays a major role in our children’s development, often being a compulsory activity at school especially in the younger years. Sports development is essential in childhood, It’s not just about getting children outside, its also seen as a critical part of youth development, helping children develop in many important areas.
The importance of youth sports development
A recent report called “Getting into the Game” studied evidence from 77 published studies and has provided strong evidence to support the hypothesis that sport has a powerful role to play in a child’s overall education and life skills development. This is especially evident in the poorer, more vulnerable communities.
Doing more than improving health
It’s long been recognised that sport has an important role to play in promoting children’s health and assisting with their physical development, but the new report highlights the important role sport plays in advancing human rights and promoting peace and understanding across many cultures, while also promoting social and economic development.
How children benefit from sport
Sport gives children the opportunity to develop positive character traits. Some of the benefits that come from playing sports include:
- The growth of character and moral principals. Children who are actively engaged in sport can be good role models for their peers. Abiding by the rules of the game and learning the importance of working together as a team, also encourages fair play and empathy for others.
- Encouraging friendships. Playing sport helps children form friendship bonds with other children they might not have been exposed to in their day-to-day activities. These friendships can often last a lifetime.
- A united front. Sport brings people together, irrespective of their backgrounds, spirituality or culture. It transcends boundaries and literally brings everyone down to a ‘level playing field’.
- Sport encourages children to learn from success and failure and the importance of working harder to achieve success next time.
- Respect for rules. The importance of rules in a game teaches children to respect authority and they learn that rules have a purpose in achieving a greater goal.
- Growth in self-esteem. One of the most important roles sport plays in youth development is the growth in self-esteem. Children who play sport have greater peer acceptance and do better at school.
- Reduced stress. Playing sport regularly plays an important role in a child’s mental well-being and helps reduce stress, juvenile delinquency and aggression,
Playing for the love of sport
To ensure that children benefit from sport, it is essential that teachers and parents don’t impose unrealistic expectations or goals on children. Children need to play sport for enjoyment and to develop their physical and intellectual skills. Too much pressure could have a counter-effect and encourage an aversion to sport. Results, medals and awards may result from your child’s love of sport, but they are not the primary goal.
Constructive ways to encourage the love of sport
After practises or games ask the right questions like. How did you feel about your game today? How did practice go? To work on improvement outside of practice, offer opportunities for your child. If they he/she says no, drop it & bring it up another time. Try to be at as many games as you can. Always offer praise for any hard work. Your anxiety should not push your child to perform just to make you happy. Let your child make his or her own choice, even if it’s a poor choice, let them face those natural consequences. This might just be one of the most powerful teaches. Your child should be their own person, rather strive to understand what his or her goals are in sport and what do they really want. Remember pushing in a positive way, is more of an art form, not an exact science.
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