Benefits of Team Sports for Mental Health and Resilience

Playing football, soccer or netball on weekends is an important part of the Australian lifestyle for children. Unfortunately, many kids drop out of team sports when they become teenagers. 

This is confirmed by a youth participation survey by the Australian Sports Commission, which found that 40% of students aged 13 – 17 had not participated in organised sports in the last 12 months.

It appears young people are dropping out of sports at the precise time in their lives when they could benefit the most. Team sports can help teenagers deal with peer pressure, hormonal changes and academic stress. 

Here are just some of the mental health benefits of team sports for kids.

Natural Mood Enhancement  

Multiple studies have confirmed that physical exercise is a natural mood enhancer. Engaging in team sports releases endorphins which improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. This alone is a compelling reason for kids to be involved in sports.

Positive Body Image 

Body image is a major issue for young people, particularly girls. Those who play team sports learn to appreciate their bodies for their strength, resilience and skill, rather than what they look like. A healthy body image can help young people avoid depression and anxiety. 

More Social Connections 

Team sports allow kids to meet a wide circle of people, including those from different backgrounds. It’s very healthy for young people to have a diverse group of friends. Teens are less likely to feel isolated and lonely when they have a large support network. 

Sense of Belonging 

Being part of a team gives young people a feeling of belonging and sense of identity at a crucial time in their lives. When they feel like they’re part of something bigger, kids will have a more optimistic outlook because they are connected to others in a positive way. 

Better Communication Skills 

Communication is a major part of playing team sports. Kids need to learn how to communicate with teammates both verbally and non-verbally through facial expressions and eye contact.  Having good communication skills gives them confidence to speak up for themselves and share their views. This is excellent for mental health and self-esteem. 

Sense of Discipline 

Children who play team sports learn to adhere to a schedule and follow instructions. They have to listen quietly and wait their turn. This instils discipline which will help them manage schoolwork and chores more easily. Students with self-discipline are more resilient and independent because they have the inner resources to manage their own behaviour.

Dealing with Setbacks 

Part of playing team sports involves dealing with disappointment and setbacks. Kids who are able to handle the disappointment of losing or performing poorly develop resilience which can carry them through tough times in life. This is supported by a study in the United States which found that adults who had traumatic childhood experiences reported better mental health if they participated in team sports as kids.

More Restful Sleep 

Playing team sports will ensure kids are tired at bedtime, and this leads to deeper and more restful sleep. When kids get a good night’s sleep they are better equipped to deal with stress and challenging situations. They can focus better in the classroom and will be less irritable or prone to depression. 

There are many mental health benefits in playing team sports for kids.