It’s been a tough couple of months for sports.
The Summer Olympics were fun, but superstar gymnast Simone Biles dropping out of several competitions shows the extreme pressure some athletes are feeling. Then several American female gymnasts testified before Congress about how they were abused by the Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar.
Members of the National Women’s Soccer League stopped playing during their games to protest what they say is years of abuse and harassment by coaches.
Most recently, Las Vegas Raiders football coach Jon Gruden resigned because of emails he wrote that said mean things about women, Black people and gay people. The emails were discovered during an investigation of the Washington Football Team and claims that the WFT organization treated its female employees badly.
There has been so much terrible behavior happening in sports that one father wrote an article last week in The Washington Post saying that he would no longer encourage his 7-year-old son to play sports.
I admit there are plenty of problems in sports – from the playground to the pro leagues. Abuse and harassment should not be part of sports at any level. But sports are still mostly good for kids. Maybe this is a good time to review why.
The first reason, and it’s a big one, is that sports are a great way for kids to get exercise. Exercise is one of the least-expensive ways to stay healthy, according to the Aspen Institute, a group that studies issues including youth sports. In addition, studies show that kids who play sports are much more likely to be physically active when they are older than kids who do not play sports.
That physical activity helps people avoid becoming obese (very overweight). Obese people generally have more health problems.
Exercise can help in school. A study that followed kids from kindergarten to fourth grade found that more physical activity is associated with better grades. In addition, teenagers who play sports in high school are more likely to go to college and get a degree than kids who do not play sports in high school.
In addition, male and female students who play sports in high school are less likely to smoke cigarettes or feel lonely. These athletes also have higher self-esteem, meaning they feel better about themselves.
These findings about sports make sense, especially when considering team sports. Sports provide opportunities for kids to meet and work with teammates and friends toward a common goal – getting better as a player and as a team.
As I said, there are problems with sports. But there is also plenty that is good about sports and especially for kids playing sports.
That’s good to remember during tough times.
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