Children need sport, but...

Sport can elicit physical and mental benefits that may serve participants throughout their lives through the development of what is termed "life skills". Sport can be a sound setting for the opportunity to practice these skills of so called 'life skills", such as resilience, emotional regulation, relationship building, conciliation, and teamwork (for example, see Danish et al., 2004; Gould & Carson, 2008; Gould and Giannoudis, 2008; Danish et al., 2005; Gould & Voelker, 2012). However, sport can also be a setting where values such as competition, win at all costs, toughness (for example) are promoted (Messner, 1989). Mere participation in sport is therefore insufficient for the development of life-skills (Neely & Holt, 2014) as not all psycho-social experiences in sport may be explicitly or implicitly beneficial.

The decisions parents make with regards to children's participation in organised sports, and the club and coach environment the child encounters as a consequence, as well as the discourse around sport constructed in the parent-child-sport relationship, are central to the "life-lessons" taken by the child from sport participation. The positive benefits that may be derived from sport participation are therefore, not guaranteed.

There is a trend towards increased (but not necessarily greater than sport) participation in unstructured play and physical activity, such as skateboarding and surfing. This type of play can yield the same health benefits as sport. However, in our recent study into aspects of boys sport, some of the potentially positive psycho-social "life-skills" that have the potential to feature in the organised sport setting were not considered evident in the unstructured play and physical activity setting by parents. For the parents in this study, sport participation at a young age was therefore considered worthwhile. 

A version of the the paper from which this blog is derived can be found at:


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