The social benefits of sport

It is often said that Australians have a natural and an insatiable fixation for sports. Come to think of it, it does seem to be true! Passionate to the point of being dubbed as obsessive, Australians’ relentless zeal to participate and excel in diverse sports dates back as far as records exist, which inevidently laid the foundation for a rich sporting tradition that successfully cut across all barriers to emerge as a fundamental part of the Australian identity and a symbol of national pride.

Australians’ undying passion for games, coupled with the country’s year-round gorgeous weather and its abundance of playgrounds and open spaces, have collectively catapulted the sports-loving land into a league of its own. Renowned for producing some of the finest athletes of all times, the country has witnessed many iconic sportsmen and sportswomen who have gone down in history as the greatest of their times.

With such an enviable track record to fall back upon, it is not surprising that sports, both organised and non-organised, are now deeply entwined with an average Australian’s day-to-day life. So much so that many Aussie parents firmly believe that sports are integral to the overall development of their children and encourage their kids to participate in them actively. Wondering what is it about sports that make them so crucial to a child’s growing years? Read on to know more about how they can benefit your kids in an all-pervading manner.

The Joy of Good Health
One of the most obvious and noticeable benefits of playing sport is that it boosts your children’s physical, mental and emotional well-being and makes them as fit as a fiddle. Other than strengthening their tender bones, it also tones their muscles, promotes coordination and improves their blood circulation. It has been established that a regular bout of athletic sports can aid youngsters in overcoming stress and can help them fight obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, heart ailments and a host of other chronic diseases.

Children, who participate in games regularly, often seem to be happier and more energised than those who do not play sports at all or indulge in it intermittently. Another advantage of sport is that it encourages kids to embrace healthy lifestyle choices, including intake of nutritious food and maintaining a disciplined regime. Since these habits are instilled at an early stage, they often exhibit themselves as lifelong practices which contribute to the robust health of the child in his or her later years.

Feeling of Camaraderie
Ever noticed how your child forms new associations whenever he or she mingles with other kids during a round of basketball, netball, football, softball, cricket, hockey and the likes? That’s the beauty of sports - it fosters great camaraderie amongst the young participants. Sports are a true embodiment of the timeless philosophy of “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. It moulds the impressionable minds in such a way that they begin to acknowledge the merits of unity, collaboration, teamwork and team spirit, learn to stand by their peers during adversities and setbacks and seek joy in celebrating victories collectively.

A Sense of Achievement
It is said that sport is a great leveller. It keeps one grounded as he or she realises that both success and defeat are part and parcel of any game. One of the most gratifying outcomes of playing sports is the incredible sense of self-worth that follows an achievement - whether it is a team victory or accomplishment of a personal milestone. Likewise, accepting defeat graciously and resurging with renewed enthusiasm is also a remarkable facet of any sport. The ability to make a successful come back from a low point can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem and can help him or her mature into a confident and balanced adult in the years to come.
Participation in sports requires kids to adhere to the specific norms as mandated by each game. They learn early on that they must respect and abide by rules and regulations and consequently become more self-disciplined at a young age. Additionally, children learn to compete with their peers in a manner that is healthy, fair and honest - crucial learnings that will hold them in good stead in future.

Opportunity to Bond with Family
Probably one of the best aspects of sports is that they are not only a source of unrestrained fun for the child but are also great opportunities for the entire family to bond with each other. Engaging with the kids in their favourite sports, accompanying them to their practice sessions, watching them participate in matches and reveal their hidden potentials in the most unexpected manner can all be extremely rewarding for the parents. The entire experience is equally fulfilling for the kids who feel valued when their parents take interest in the physical activities that excite them. All in all, sports play a vital role in strengthening the bond between parents and their children.

Team Sport vs. Individual Sport
While formal education can prepare your child for a bright future in the upcoming years, involvement in sports can actually help him or her become a better person by imparting them with invaluable life lessons that are over and beyond the knowledge that is typical of schools. Indeed, there is probably no better way for a child to instil the golden virtues of team spirit, good sportsmanship and accountability in a fun-filled way other than to learn them while pursuing sports.

Team sports like football, cricket, basketball, netball, hockey, rugby etc. expose children to team work and help them understand the importance of working together to achieve a shared vision. One also learns how to put the team’s interests ahead of their personal aspirations. Likewise, individual sports like cycling, swimming, tennis, golf, fencing, gymnastics etc. develop a child’s competitive spirit, prepare him or her to face challenges with a positive frame of mind, teaches one to keep their chin up in the aftermath of a defeat or criticism and instils in one the passion to deliver their best efforts in every endeavour that they undertake.

Not Natural Athletes
Lastly, it is important for parents to accept and appreciate that every child is not a natural athlete and that’s perfectly normal. Rather than insisting that their kids take part in sports against their wishes, one must be patient with them and gently try to explore the reason behind the disinterest in physical activities. Having a face-to-face conversation in a manner that is caring and respectful can actually cause your child to shed his or her inhibitions and open up to you with the reasons behind their lack of interest. At times, a child, especially one who is too shy or low on self-esteem, may be more inclined to indoor games or some other form of self-expression like painting, reading, music etc. as opposed to outdoor sports or highly competitive games. By being supportive and understanding of your child’s innermost concerns and apprehensions, you can effectively address their issues and explore sporting environments that are fun and safe while remaining conducive to your child’s overall well-being.

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