Growing up, I was always running around. Sitting still was never my forte (and it still isn’t). I found a productive way to channel my energy into sports, playing basketball, softball and lacrosse on the city and school teams, and kickball at recess. (Go Untouchables, Pink Flamingos and Trevians!) While I loved pretending to be a Harlem Globetrotter, catching fly balls, and sprinting down the field, the camaraderie among my fellow teammates is what made the sport come alive. We were there for each other as we celebrated our wins, and channeled our losses into motivation to practice harder and play better next time. During weekly practices and games, we supported and enouraged each other on the field, and went out for frozen yogurt after games, building strong relationships. We were more than teammates – we were friends. In fact, I'm still friends with many people I met on my childhood teams.
We all know that physical activity is good for your health. But did you know that social sports have benefits beyond the physical? Adults who play on social or team sports enjoy better mental health and life satisfaction than people who exercise at a gym or walk alone. Sports teach us to cooperate as part of a team, and feel a connection and identity with others. Not only do team sports offer mental and physical health benefits, but research suggests that we’re more likely to maintain our physical activity when it’s combined with social support. There's a sense of pride and community in being part of a team. When people feel connected to others and to something larger, they tend to be more satisfied with their life, and feel more hopeful and more confident in their abilities.
The same holds true for young people. Research has shown that among youth, ages 12-14, those who played on a sports team said they felt healthier and expressed more overall satisfaction with their life. A sense of community and a great deal of socialization are just some of the advantages of being on a sports team, particularly among pre-teen youth who are going through developmental stages and times of transitions. Participating in team sports can even enhance school connectedness, social support and bonding among friends and teammates, as youth (and adults alike) feel that they are part of something bigger and contributing to a community goal.
Or, round up some friends and neighbors for a pick-up game of your favorite sport, or some good old fashioned kickball or capture the flag. See you on the field!