A recent study proposes a biological mechanism for the correlation between participation in youth
sports and a decrease in rates of depression, although further research is needed. In 2017-2018, there
were nearly 8 million high school athletes according to a report by the National Federation of State High
School Association. Additionally, athletic competition can provide several benefits to mental health.
Creating Active Living Habits
Research shows that cardiovascular exercise and strength training have been proven to improve mood
and aid in management of anxiety. These forms of exercise are inherent in most athletic endeavors.
Introducing children and teens to sports can help establish healthy habits that stretch long into the
future and form the foundation for an active lifestyle.
From winning a championship or improving from previous performances to simply trying one’s best,
sports naturally encourage athletes to set and work towards goals. Establishing goals is a great way for
athletes to be mindful about the reason they choose to participate in the first place. Having a clear path
forward helps limit distractions, develop a sense of personal responsibility, and promotes a healthy
sense of pride in an accomplishment.
Particularly in team sports, comradery between teammates can build strong, lasting friendships based
on mutual support. Not only do sports teach the skill of being receptive to support from peers, but they
also generate many opportunities for individuals to both learn and practice empathy. When someone is
struggling with their mental health or a mental illness, access to a support system greatly increases their
odds of recovery. Even individual sports can create strong support networks through the shared
experiences between competitors, coaches, trainers, and fans. From signing the cast of a teammate’s
broken arm to enjoying a slice of pizza or ice cream cone together after an event, the social aspect of
sports reaches far beyond the field of play.
Healthy living, goal setting, and showing support for friends and loved ones helps develop lifelong values
for young athletes. Ask any athlete and they will tell you that sports helped them better understand
what is important in life. Sports teach the necessity of hard work and perseverance while simultaneously
fostering sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, compassion, and character building.
HCA Midwest Health is the official healthcare provider for Heartland Soccer Association and we work
with parents and coaches to keep athletes safe and on the field of play year round, learn more about
our services at www.hcamidwest.com