The Importance of Sport In Your Child's Education
Is your child the sporty type? Is he or she more likely to be found in the pool or on the pitch rather than engrossed in a book? If so, then you probably already appreciate the importance of sport for growing minds. If you child leans more towards the academic, however, you may find yourself wondering whether time spent on the football pitch or in games lessons at school is just wasted time. Well, no, and for some very important reasons.
Healthy Habits for Life
The most obvious benefits of sport are the health related ones. It's clear that regular involvement in sport from an early age sets up healthy habits for life, and children who participate eagerly in sports activities in school are more likely to go on to engage in sports and healthy activities as adults too.
Clearly this has positive implications for growing children in terms of weight management, and there is plenty of empirical evidence around which shows how active children are less at risk of developing a whole host of health problems later in life.
This much you know. What are less obvious, perhaps, are the character building benefits of sport, and yes, the academic influences too.
Self-Esteem, Mental Health and Character Building
Involvement in team sports teaches your child much more than just how to tackle or how to catch a ball. Playing competitive sports in a team means your child is learning the virtues of honesty, fair play and teamwork. She is also learning a healthy regard for the rules.
We live in a highly competitive world, but parts of the education system are focused on making sure nobody "loses". Sports helps to balance this out - in competitive sports, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Being able to cope with losing - and finding a determination to do better next time - is an invaluable skill as the child approaches adulthood. Likewise, being gracious in victory is a skill which will help them to develop a decent adult character. Team sports also help to develop leadership skills in a very tangible way.
Solo sports also play a vital role in developing the whole child. Through any kind of sporting activity but perhaps especially individual sports, children can develop a healthy self-esteem and a sense of self-discipline. The discipline involved in practice correlates almost directly with the discipline which will be required of them academically come revision time.
Motivation for Children Who are Falling Behind
There's a good deal of evidence to suggest that sport can be a positive motivator for children who are struggling at school. In the US, although less commonly here, membership of sports teams is often dependent on good grades, which directly encourages children to work harder. Sports programmes have also been shown to cut truancy rates, and to encourage better attendance - so much so that even the UNHCR uses sport specifically to encourage children to attend school in refugee camps around the world.
Does Sport Lead to Better Grades?
Physical activity at school or after school releases endorphins, and is known to help alleviate boredom and to increase mental focus. A study in 2013 by the University of South Carolina and Penn State University showed that of all extra curricular activities, only competitive sports had a positive influence on academic grades. More research is needed in this area, but it would appear that the increased confidence and focus provided by sport can and does translate directly into the classroom.
Well Rounded Individuals
Another reason to encourage sports participation in your child is that universities love it. By being able to demonstrate active sporting interests in a personal statement or at interview, your child gets a step closer towards being the elusive "well rounded" applicant that all universities seek. After all, universities have sports teams to fill too, and they also understand the character building importance of sport and its positive influence on a candidate's personality and motivation.
So, next time your child wants to play sports instead of studying, don't raise your eyebrows - think of the benefits, and encourage them to be the best they can be.
William Clarence Education is the leading education consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, we help and advise families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of British education.
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