Wowee – your little one seems to be growing fast (or perhaps they’re not so little anymore).
It seems like just yesterday you were changing their nappy, dressing them in the clothes that you picked out, and grabbing them right before they ate something they shouldn’t. Everything felt like it was in your control.
Now they’re getting a little older, you want to continue to make sure they’re being given every opportunity possible to grow, develop and thrive. You want to give them a platform and foundation to set them up for life.
Sport is one such opportunity.
As a dad to a 10-month old daughter, I can’t wait to see my little girl get started and thrive in a sport she adores!
Playing sports is simply great for kids because it offers:
- Physical benefits including in greater strength, coordination, and cardiovascular health.
- Mental and emotional benefits such as greater confidence, energy and resilience.
- Social Benefits like leadership, teamwork and competitiveness.
These are just a few of many.
At the Artemis Centre, we are dedicated experts in the physical, social, emotional and academic wellbeing of our members, and want to help them to perform at their best.
Let’s dive right in!
Why Playing Sport is Great for Kids!
Muscle & Bone Strength
As a strength and conditioning coach at Melbourne Girls Grammar School (MGGS), I get to observe first-hand how sporting endeavours can help improve the physical literacy of young women.
Moving quickly, powerfully and in different directions requires a great deal of strength and coordination. It blows me away how impressionable our students are and how the powerful stimulus of sport can facilitate positive change within their bodies.
Sport helps children’s muscles, bones and tendons become bigger, stronger and more resilient. These physical demands place significant but manageable forces on the tissues of our bodies, forcing them to adapt.
Improved Body Composition
According to the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW), around one in four children aged between 5-14 years are overweight or obese.
These statistics are beyond concerning and are often associated with physical inactivity, also known as sedentary behaviour.
The enticing nature of television, phones and video games have lead to rising screen times and decreased rates of incidental activity that kids used to gain playing outdoors.
Playing sports can help to combat this growing trend.
It can help to manage body composition – the amount of fat versus fat-free mass (muscles, bones, cells, etc.) our children have.
When children play sport, they require greater amounts of energy. You may have already noticed that the amount of food your child eats skyrockets when they’re physically active.
The increased metabolism and good physical activity habits that playing sport brings about can help our children to manage their weight, not only now, but for the years to come.
Coordination & Balance
Not only does playing sport help to strengthen the tissues of our body, but it also helps to improve the neural pathways between our mind and our muscles.
Muscles require a complex and sequential recruitment pattern, which our brain is responsible for executing. As we get better at this, our movement becomes more coordinated and we are able to balance ourselves better.
You might have noticed that when your little one first started trying to walk, their movement was jerky and unpredictable. But as time went on and they were able to try and fail over and over, they started to gain greater control.
As we grow and learn, our movement becomes smoother, more coordinated and more skilful as these mind-muscle pathways strengthen.
Encouraging your children to play sport can help them continue to become more coordinated and balanced in new and more unpredictable environments.
Improved Cardiovascular Fitness & Stamina
Playing sport helps to improve cardiovascular fitness and stamina, which can lead to improved quality of life and lower chances of heart and lung diseases in later years.
Cardiovascular fitness refers to our ability to transfer oxygen from the external environment into our lungs and to disperse it via the blood to the numerous cells of our body, in particular our working muscles.
Sport places a high demand on the cardiovascular system because we are using our muscles so readily.
As our kids play and train in their chosen sports, they are developing these systems. This helps them to sustain their physical intensity and effort for prolonged periods of time and delays their time to fatigue.
Improved Skill & Athleticism
When children play sports, they acquire the ability to learn and practice new skills such as running, sprinting, throwing, striking, kicking, paddling, jumping and changing direction.
Although these abilities can be achieved in a host of ways, trialling and playing different sports is arguable the most effective.
Playing sport helps your kids to practice new skills in an unpredictable, variable way – also known as random practice.
We recommend giving children new opportunities to sustain their development, by trialling a range of different sports while they’re young, rather than getting them to specialise or focus their attention on only one sport too early.
Mental & Emotional Benefits
Reduced Stress, Anxiety & Depression
Playing sports can play a big role in the management of mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression. The AIHW reports that around one in seven young people aged 4-17 years of age were assessed as experiencing a mental health disorder and the numbers are sadly on the rise.
Fortunately, playing sport offers us some practical solutions to combat this.
According to Beyond Blue: ‘Sport is a proven de-stressor. It forces you to apply yourself fully to the task at hand, leaving behind thoughts and worries you may have had beforehand’.
Playing sport, as well as physical activity in general, also promotes the release of endorphins, also known as the ‘happy chemicals’ within our brain.
Elevated levels of endorphins have also been shown to also assist with improved sleep quality, which can also aid improvements in mental health.
Greater Energy & Concentration
Believe it or not, in general, the more active you are, the more energy you have. It also works the opposite way too – children who are more sedentary are also more likely to feel more lethargic and lack a spring in their step.
In my own experience, as part of the Fit for Life Program offered at Melbourne Girls Grammar, we encourage students to break up long periods of study with bouts of exercise, such as completing an individualsed strength session or a simple walk or run around the nearby botanical gardens.
MGGS Students have spoken of how much better their energy and concentration levels are following exercise, which of course also extends to playing sport too.
Participation in sport gives children the opportunity to learn new skills, make new friends, as well as to overcome new challenges, which can all lead to a greater feeling of self-confidence.
Furthermore, the trial-and-error style learning and consequent confident boost that sport offers has been shown to help young women to back themselves as they navigate through their career.
Playing sport helps kids gain a greater feeling of self-belief. Instead of seeing setbacks as a negative reflection of themselves, they start seeing them as a new challenge to engage with and overcome.
Improved Self Esteem & Body Image
Working in my role at a girls school, I too often see the effect that a negative body image can have on adolescent girls. It often comes about through conversations regarding restrictive diets or excessive exercise regimes.
In saying this, a positive relationship with exercise, in particular, playing sport, can certainly help. A study presented by WebMD showed that kids, in particular, young women, who play sport have greater self-esteem and body image.
As we have spoken of earlier, playing sport can also help in managing body composition, which can absolutely help young people to feel more confident in their bodies.
Cooperation & Teamwork
Playing sport teaches kids how to work together with their peers to work through problems, engage each other’s strengths and to delegate, negotiate and assign responsibilities.
Kids who want to ‘do it all themselves’ quickly find out that it’s not the most effective way to succeed. Likewise, the teams who only lean on their most talented players are almost never the most successful.
Learning how to cooperate with others from an early age is fundamental to success later in life, as almost all workplaces require large amounts of effective teamwork.
Playing sport offers children an opportunity to lead others around them – to be bold, to take risks, to motivate others around them, and to exert influence.
Sport is filled with high-pressure situations, where good decisions need to be executed in short spaces of time. We lean on our leaders to set the right path for us and to pave the way when we’re feeling unsure or exposed.
Playing sport cements these skills into our kids and helps to uncover their inner leadership.
Sports(WO)manship / Ability to Accept Defeat
Playing sport teaches children that there are times in life where you can give it your all yet still fall short of victory. This is an extremely important lesson to learn, as life is filled with adversity and most of the time – isn’t fair.
When we lose, it can easy to start blaming, shaming, or deflecting responsibility. Playing sport teaches kids how to own their decisions, to remember that things don’t always go to plan, and to accept defeat with a positive outlook.
So often we are quick to wrap our children in cotton wool and only give them positive experiences, but in reality, this doesn’t breed resilience. It builds character when we can realise what we aren’t good at and leverage this feedback to help us improve for next time.
Competitiveness & Determination
Having drive and a sense of competitiveness is a key character trait for success in the 21st century. The reality is that most of the time, the people that want something the most usually get it!
Playing sport stimulates our competitive spirit and helps us to get a taste of how great victory and success feels. Experiencing this feeling early in life helps our kids to become more aspirational, to set high goals for themselves and to raise their daily standards.
Self-Discipline & Commitment
Playing sport is no walk in the park – it takes ongoing effort and persistence to get through a whole season, especially when you’re losing.
There’s multiple training sessions each week, ongoing hard-fought games, as well as early starts and late finishes.
There’s rain, hail, hard work, sweat, tears and perhaps even blood and sore bodies.
At Melbourne Girls Grammar, our coaches and students work together to establish collective values and agreements.
We encourage students to commit to a sport for an entire season, and although at times this can be challenging, we have found that it teaches them valuable life lessons.
What we Offer
At the Artemis Centre, we offer a number of swimming and gymnastics programs that can help your kids get started in a sport they’ll love!
Visit our programs page to find out more.