Sports and Anger Management
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Most parents agree that playing sports is good for kids. Whether your child’s loves basketball or bowling, softball or soccer, the physical activity associated with playing sports introduces kids to the joys of exercise and helps them stay in shape. Participating in sports teaches kids important lessons about teamwork, winning, and even losing.
While these benefits are well known to moms and dads, a new study from Tel Aviv University shows that sports participation is also beneficial to a child’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral well-being. The results of the study suggest that a continuous program of various sports helped improve self-control and discipline while reducing negative emotions and feelings of aggression in the children overall.
The researchers studied over 600 children in grades three through six. Half the kids comprised a control group that did not receive sports instruction, while the other half was systematically introduced to a variety of sports for five hours a week. Three times a week, the students played group sports such as basketball or soccer. Twice a week, they participated in martial arts, including judo and karate.
The researchers noted significant improvements in the children who participated in sports, especially with regard to traits that related to self-control, such as self-observation, problem-solving skills, and delayed gratification. Improvements in these traits ultimately led to a reduction in the incidence of aggression, especially in boys.
Youth sports participation involves a lot of work, not just for kids, but also for their parents. The good news is that the rewards of your efforts will last a lifetime. If your child hasn’t found his or her dream sport yet, don’t give up. The benefits are just too good to bypass. You may have tried track and tennis, but have you tried and golf or gymnastics? Lacrosse, rubgy, or volleyball?
Sometimes, a child has to experience three or four (or more!) sports before finding the one that ignites a fire-in-the-belly love for the game. If you’re able to help your child discover this sport, and that feeling, congratulations. You both win!