Getting involved in sporting activities – whether team-based or individual sports – is one of the best ways to improve a young person’s physical and mental well-being.
Participation in sport and physical activity not only keeps children fit and healthy, but helps build their self-esteem and confidence, develop their social skills and motivate them to do well at school.
Young people who are involved in sport are more likely to be well-rounded, have a positive attitude to life and be less likely to develop mental health problems.
Children who continue playing sports or taking part in athletics into adolescence often have the chance to become involved professionally, or may be able to pursue coaching and volunteering opportunities. In fact, achieving greater physical fitness is a key component of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, while coaching forms part of the Welsh Baccalaureate’s community challenge (at foundation and advanced levels).
Sometimes, there are social and cultural barriers that deter young people from participating in sporting activities. Girls are less inclined to take part in sports after puberty and young people from BME backgrounds or disabled young people may face real or perceived barriers in accessing suitable sporting opportunities.
The benefits of sport
Regular exercise is important at any age; however, there are additional reasons why children and young people should get active and involved in sports.
- Physical fitness – in a world where many young people spend hours online, sport provides an opportunity for them to exercise and maintain a healthy weight
- Social skills – sport encourages children to mix with others their own age, but also with coaches and sports officials. This helps them gain confidence which helps them now and in their future life.
- Team-building – even individual sports like athletics or archery usually have a club or team component where members support each other’s efforts.
- Leadership skills – in sporting activities, the older children will frequently look out for the younger ones
- Self-esteem – the encouragement and praise that children get from sporting activities has a huge positive impact on their confidence and self-esteem.
- Educational success – young people who take part in sports usually apply the same dedication and hard work to everything in life, including their academic studies.
Young people who participate in sports when they are growing up are also more likely to see physical activity as an everyday part of life and continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle throughout adulthood.
The right sport for your child
Not all sports are equal. Too many young people are put off physical activity for life after a humiliating performance on sports day or miserable experiences on the school playing field.
If the usual school team sports don’t interest your child, don’t worry. There are plenty of alternatives including water sports, athletics, outdoor pursuits and a wide range of indoor sports, e.g. bowls, badminton or ice skating.
Cycling remains popular with young people and the National Cycle Network provides safe, traffic-free paths and quiet routes for cyclists, wheelchair users, walkers, runners, and horse riders.
Having fun with apps
Sporting activities are now intrinsically linked with technology so if you’re struggling to get a computer-mad child off their computer, get them to check out some of the sports apps that are now available, e.g. Strava enables runners to compare their own performance over time and against others.
Sport Wales provides information about what sporting facilities and/or teams and clubs are available in your area. Or you can contact your local council’s Sports Development Team for information.
BME Sport Cymru runs several projects in Wales (Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and North Wales) to increase participation in sport and encourage healthier and more active lifestyles among BME communities.
Disability Sports Wales promotes hundreds of clubs offering disability-specific or disability-inclusive sporting opportunities across Wales. Activities range from canoeing and outdoor pursuits to cricket, football, netball and martial arts. Find out what’s going on in your area, search for a local club or contact the Disability Sports Development Officer at your local council.