Today's youth are the first generation in American history projected to have shorter lifespans than their parents — 5 years shorter. The sedentary lifestyles of today's young people are a central cause. The problem is not merely that they are sedentary now; it is also a concern that sedentary lifestyles will persist into adulthood. Inactive lifestyles are associated with some of this country's most critical health issues, including the rising rates of obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Getting kids to play and stay in sports at a young age fosters a lifestyle that values physical fitness. Adolescents who play sports are eight times as likely to be active at age 24 as adolescents who do not play sports (Sports Participation as Predictors of Participation in Sports and Physical Fitness Activities in Young Adulthood, Perkins, 2004).
Sports provide youth with opportunities to learn valuable social skills such as communication, teamwork, and patience. For many parents, sports are opportunities for children to learn how to work with others, how to communicate and problem solve, and how to overcome differences to achieve a common goal. These social skills are expected of adults, and sport participation can be one way to instill these behaviors in youth. In addition, sports provide opportunities for building relationships and developing self-confidence. For many, sports establish secondary support systems that provide encouragement, comfort, a sense of belonging, and a sense of self-worth.
Studies show that physical activity can enhance cognitive development and subsequent educational attainment. Research shows that children with access to recess and/or physical activity throughout the school day exhibit improved classroom behavior, increased focus and concentration, and even perform better on standardized tests.
We are aware that although many sport programs attempt or claim to offer these outcomes, they often fail to do so as a result of their design, their delivery, or their implementation. However, these goals can be encouraged and achieved by redesigning the current system of sport delivery, coordinating across sectors, and reforming sport-based policies.