Playing sports is a great way to keep active and fit. But the benefits do not stop at smaller waistlines and reduced health risks.
Research shows that playing team sports is a great way to harness feelings of psychological well-being and decrease the occurrence of depressive symptoms.
A 2014 study followed more than 800 students as they progressed from seventh grade through high school. They found that students who played school sports were less likely to report depressive symptoms and high stress-levels, and rated themselves as having better mental health than their sedentary peers.
“There is surprisingly little known about school sport, so we can only speculate as to the unique effects, but we suspect it might be due to school sport providing adolescents with opportunities to bond with other students, feel connected to their school, interact with their peers and coaches, thus, really providing a social and active environment,” said lead author Catherine M. Sabiston in a press release about the journal article.
That study also found that students were likely to maintain higher levels of mental health for several years after their participation. The authors recommended that school officials consider placing further emphasis on athletic participation.
Team sports require athletes to work together to contribute to a common goal. They learn to set goals, work with their adult coaches and must balance their time well. This may explain why many parents encourage their kids to get involved in sports at a young age.
“One of the good thing about sports is that many bad things will happen. Games will be lost. Injuries incurred. Your child might be benched, demoted, or not perform up to his/her abilities. Your child might hate his coach and feel that he is incapable or unfair. And all of this will be good. All of this will be the solid foundation that his later life will rest upon,” wrote mother-of-four Lisa Heffernan, in an article last year.
These life-lessons may provide unexpected benefits throughout a former athlete’s life – even into the “real world,” according to a recent Cornell University study.
Kevin Kniffin, the study’s lead author, used a survey of more than 900 World War II veterans to compare athletes with non-athletes. Former athletes reported significantly higher ratings for self-respect and self-confidence, and were more likely to have reached “upper management” in their careers – 60 years after their athletic careers had ended.
“We entitled earlier versions of the article ‘Revenge of the Jocks’ since the findings generally describe favorable outcomes for former student-athletes in contrast with the stereotype that jocks see their glory days fade at high school graduation while others age much better,” Kniffin said in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post. The new research … does state plainly that people who earn a Varsity letter in high school do tend to enjoy advantages that extend beyond high school graduation day.”
Kniffin notes that several recent presidents have been former athletes. President Obama, both Bush’s and Gerald Ford were noted athletes before they gave up their respective sporting fields for the political arena. Their early endeavors may have helped shape their drive and ambition to reach the White House.
Being a jock doesn’t condemn anyone to a life spent reminiscing about the “glory days” of high school sports. It can help young adults develop social skills and self-confidence that will help them throughout their professional and personal lives.