The benefits of organised competitive sport for developing young people

Teaching jobs in the UK don’t just involve literacy and numeracy. Your job as a teacher is to develop healthy, all round switched on young people who can go on to live happy and successful lives. Some of this is about pastoral support, and emotional wellbeing and some is about cross curricular activity. You may be surprised how much comes from sports.In a busy world where walking to school is less common than in previous generations, and playing outside after school just isn’t safe, there needs to be more provision of activity in school. Taking part in organised competitive sport is great for developing young people – here’s why.

Sport is good for healthy bodies

According to the NHS, under 18s should aim for an average of at least an  hour of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity a day across the week. However, figures show that one third (29%) are doing less than 30 minutes of exercise every day. Running, walking, and functional exercises that you get from sports help get the heart rate up, the blood pumping, and build strong muscles. Competitive sport often requires lots of different activity types and uses different muscles – think of all the muscles used in netball or football for example – so can build good all round athleticism. 

Sport is good for mental health

Exercise is great for mental health. One of the most important chemicals for mental health is oxytocin – the love hormone. Competitive team sport can help build a connection and bring people together. It also triggers off endorphins – the feel good chemicals – that make us feel brighter and happier. Sport England say that “Being physically active can improve mood, decrease the chance of depression and anxiety and lead to a better and more balanced lifestyle.” Which sounds like a win.

Sport helps us overcome setbacks

Like it or not, life can be competitive. And we can’t always come out on top. There will be winners in organised competitive sport, and those who just don’t get on the podium. Young people have to recognise that they can not be objectively the best at everything, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have benefits. So they didn’t win the game – but they had fun, enjoyed themselves, and got some exercise. It’s really important that we use ‘losing’ to help young people understand how best to get over setbacks and move forward. It’s worth sitting down with a team who doesn’t win and discussing what they can do to be better next time – more time warming up, better communication etc.

Sport helps us work as a team

Team work makes the dream work, as they say. Team sports such as football, netball and rugby require good communication as a group of people. Rather than a player of the match, successful teams have a group of people working together towards a shared goal. Teamwork is essential. This is useful for future success, such as on school projects, workplace collaboration, and even with family and friends. There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ but young people all play a part in their teams. It’s important that young people understand how they can contribute their talents to a bigger picture, and that strength comes in numbers, with communication.

Sport helps with focus

Not all organised competitive sport is a team endeavour. Running for example, or athletics, is often a solo pursuit. Focusing on an end goal and doing everything you can to achieve it is really helpful for young people when it comes to mapping out objectives and creating a plan to get there. There will be times in their lives when school work or employment isn’t as fun as going out or seeing friends – but they need to see the bigger picture and how prioritising is essential. Achieving a grade in an exam needs effort and practice. Same if you want to win a race. Planning and perseverance is the only way to achieve your goals.

What do you think? Did you love or hate sport at school? And do you now see the benefits?

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