Participating in Childhood Sports

Participating in Childhood Sports is a Significant Predicator of Young Adults Physical Activity Many Parents in America today choose to start their child in a competitive sport at a young age. Of the estimated 51 million children ages 6 to 17 in the United States 24 million of them play a sport of some kind. Over half of the 24 million children play a sport on a regular basis. I’d be the last person to discourage children from playing sports. Indeed, I wish many more would move away from their computers, put down their iPods and cellphones and devote more time and energy to physical activities.

Research shows that there are many benefits to having a child play a sport at a young age. The physical activity helps to maintain healthy bones, muscle, and joints; helps control weight; helps to prevent and control high blood pressure as an adult (GAO, 2012). Adolescents who play sports are eight times as likely to be active at age 24 as to adolescents who do not play sports (Sports Participation as Predictors of Participation in Sports and Physical Fitness Activities in Young Adults, Perkins, 2004).

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There is substantial evidence that those who are active with sports tend to have a better academic success (GAO 2012). High school athletes are more likely than non-athletes to attend college and get a degree; and be team leaders or even team captains (US Department of Education) A number of studies provide support that physical activity, sports in particular can have positive effects of personal development among young people. However, evidence shows that having a quality coaching staff is a key factor in maximizing positive effects (GAO 2012). One study found

that when coaches receive training in skills and communicating effectively with kids, 95 percent of the children choose to play that sport again. With untrained coaches, the rate was only 26 percent (Smoll and Smith 1992). Most of our largest sports are seeing major drop-offs in participation. Among children ages 6-12, only 40 percent played sports in any form on a regular basis, down from 44. 5 percent in 2008, according to an analysis by SFIA for projected play. Millions of kids and teens are fleeing sports. In just one year, from 2011 to 2012, participation in team sports in any form — casual, regular, or

frequent – fell from 54 percent to 50 percent among 6-17 year olds (SFIA Team Sports Report, 2013). Starting at age 9 — when children often develop a self-concept of whether or not they are an athlete – physical activity rates begin to drop sharply. By age 15, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity declines 75 percent. At that point, they average only 49 minutes per weekday and 35 minutes per weekend (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008). Only one in three children is physically active every day (Fitness. gov). Among high school students, that figure is 28.

7 percent. The prevalence of having been active on a daily basis was higher among male (38. 3 percent) than female (18. 5 percent) students (CDC, 2012). Childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled in recent years. The percentage of children ages 6-11 who are obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2010; among children ages 12 to 19, that figure grew from 5 percent to 18 percent (Center for Disease Control). One study found that among 17 developed nations, the US had the highest rates of childhood obesity among those ages 5-19 (National Academy of Science, 2013)

More than a quarter of all Americans between the ages of 17 to 24 are too fat to serve in the military. Many are turned away by recruiters and others never try to join. Of those who attempt to join, roughly 15,000 fail their entrance physicals every year because they are too overweight. Obesity rates among children and young adults have increased so dramatically that they threaten the future strength of our military (Too Fat to Fight, 2010). Today’s children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives that their 1 / 2.

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