Healthy Living

Should You Encourage Your Child to Play Sports?

Y-USA Staff
Should You Encourage Your Child to Play Sports?


Research consistently shows that involvement in sports can significantly benefit children in numerous ways, from improving physical health to boosting mental and emotional well-being to developing social skills. Whether it’s soccer, baseball, gymnastics or tennis, here’s why you should consider getting your child involved in sportsand how you can help support them along the way: 

Girls playing volleyballYouth sports keep kids active. Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, influenced in part by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and a significant rise in screen time.  Youth sports provide a way for kids to be more physically active, leading to improved bone health, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness and reduced risk of diabetes, while also helping kids maintain a healthy weight. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, youth ages six to seventeen need at least sixty minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Participating in sports can also build a foundation for lifelong health. By fostering an active lifestyle early, kids gain an appreciation for physical activity and develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

Seventy-three percent of parents believe sports boost mental and emotional health—and they’re right! Participating in sports is linked to lower anxiety and depression, reduced stress and higher self-esteem and confidence. It can also help develop self-management and communication skills, and studies have linked participation in youth sports and physical activity to improved academic performance.

Youth sports promote positive character and social skills. Interaction with teammates and coaches fosters respect for others as well as personal responsibility. Kids learn the value of teamwork as they work with a diverse group of peers toward a common goal. Youth sports also offer valuable opportunities for kids to build friendships and learn leadership skills. When kids realize they can meet a goal through continuous learning, practice, group support and mentorship, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

Participating in sports can be fun! Whether it’s making new friends, laughing with teammates in the dugout or just running around and being silly, the act of playing is just fun.  Families can get in on the action too.  From tossing a ball in the yard between practice to shooting hoops together at the park—playing sports together strengthens family bonds and creates lasting memories. Gymnastics girls

What if my child is not competitive or athletic, or I cannot commit financially? YMCA sports programs emphasize the value of participation and welcome children of all abilities. Youth benefit from trying new activities and skills in a supportive environment. If participating in a sports league or joining a travel team is not in the cards, don’t worry! The YMCA offers a diverse array of other activities that promote physical activity and social-emotional learning, such as dance, martial arts or outdoor adventures. Many Ys also offer scholarships or financial assistance to help remove barriers for families and help them access Y programs.

As a caregiver, how can I help? Whether you show up as a volunteer coach or help organize an outing, modeling your own enthusiasm for physical activity and building community can positively influence your child’s attitude toward youth sports.

What Do Y Parents Say?

  • Appreciating the Excitement of Competition

    “While winning is only a sometimes event, my kids have learned to still appreciate the excitement of competition.  And even after a difficult loss, they wake up in the morning with the realization that they are ok, still loved by their friends and family and not defined solely by outcomes.  This is how real self-confidence and resilience is built.” – Parent of a Y swimmer

  • Building Strength and Endurance

    “Youth sports encourage regular activity, works on motor skills, builds strength/endurance, healthy nutrition/hydration can be taught and provides opportunities to learn how their body functions.” – YMCA Youth Sports Parent and Coach

  • A Space for Movement

    “Youth sports provide a space for movement, which our family firmly believes helps and supports mental health. When youth feel safe, secure, loved, accepted, and respected at their sports…we have seen the positive impact that trickles into other areas of their life.” – Parent of a YMCA gymnast

  • Establishing Healthier Habits

    “With kids doing so much online, they can spend a significant portion of their day without moving enough.  Youth sports demand something completely different.  And as kids mature and become more competitive, they learn to work harder, further building healthy bodies and establishing healthier habits.”  - Parent of a Y swimmer

Find Youth Sports Opportunities Near You

From flag football to dance class, explore the youth sports opportunities at your local Y.


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