You know, as unfortunate as it is, I don’t think many people truly realize the benefits of physical activity and playing sports – especially as a youth. Recently, on one of the few warm days here, my 12 year old son asked me “Hey Mom, where’s my glove?” soon followed by “When’s baseball practice start? Are we wearing purple this season?” His enthusiasm about the game and willingness to get outside and play made me start thinking about how other people perceive sports.
Sure people realize sports are fun…I mean, what’s not to love about them? They bring people together and inspire healthy rivalry and competition, plus they teach you important life skills without you even knowing it. But the act of actually being on a team or simply getting outside and moving seems to be on the back burner of many peoples’ minds, which is a shame because there are so many wonderful benefits from keeping active. Whether young or old, our bodies and minds have so much to gain from getting out there and working up a sweat!
As a child, physical activity is crucial. Did you know being active increases your child’s metabolism? It’s true! If your child runs around instead of sitting in the house all day, they’re less likely to get colds, the flu, allergies and even cancer. Physical activity has been proven to increase brain function and blood flow while both reducing anxiety AND improving memory! It also reduces the risk of diabetes and strengthens his or her cardiovascular system. Something as simple (and fun!) as playing baseball can improve your child’s heart and lungs. Now doesn’t that make you breathe easier as a parent?
It’s not just general physical activity that helps your child – being on a sports team has all the benefits listed above along with it’s own separate list of benefits. Children who participate in sports are often times much happier and more confident than those who don’t. Running around and getting sweaty has been proven to release endorphins, which naturally make people happier. And as for confidence? Well, how could they not be more confident while playing sports? Doing something as spectacular as hitting a home run is a huge ego boost!
Along with gaining confidence, playing on a team also helps teach… you guessed it… teamwork! Being on a team means that everyone in that particular group is needed – they have their own ability and will be relied on at one point or another, but in order for their efforts to be rewarded, they need to communicate and work together to reach a certain goal. Because of this, children learn to wait their turn and to do their absolute best when it’s their time to step up to the plate, which is important in sports and will come in handy in other aspects of life (such as teaming up with their siblings to get those chores done faster!) and later on when they start to work. After all, the workplace today is a team environment!
You’ve heard of the term “to be a good sport” before, right? Well, there’s a reason for that! Sports are a fun way to learn about defeat (if there ever was a fun way to learn about that!). There will be moments where you strike out or don’t make it to a base in time, which is disappointing at first. But eventually you will learn to accept it and try harder next time without placing any blame on yourself or others. Sports teach poise and grace in the face of defeat, along with the power of discipline and determination. I’ve been aware of how sports affect the body and mind almost all my life. When I was younger I played sandlot baseball with the boys in my neighborhood and absolutely fell in love with the game.
Participating in that and experiencing first hand how it helps you improve as a person is one of the many things that has kept sports a passion of mine, and why I strongly encourage children (and their parents!) to take up sports. I love sports so much, in fact, that I’ve been involved with them and have coached kids, from first grade up to high school, for over 30 years now and have been a volunteer Kidsports coach for 4 baseball seasons. One of my favorite things to do as a coach is take my team to watch the local Eugene Emeralds baseball team play. It’s a fun and exciting way to learn firsthand about the game while being inspired by the players to keep practicing and get better and better!
Now, if your little slugger is going to be outside playing baseball all day, they’re gonna need the proper fuel. Foods such as carrots, nuts, seeds, fruit and healthy trail mix or granola bars (made with dried fruit and oats – those are fiber rich foods which will keep your blood sugar stable) are great snacks to keep your child sustained while running to each base and hitting home runs (sssh these are secrets). It’s incredibly important that your child has enough nutrients to keep their bodies going so they can keep practicing and become the next Babe Ruth, and they can’t do that by snacking on a Baby Ruth candy bars!
Of course along with proper nutrients, your child will need to stay hydrated. Water is the best thing for them to drink, but sports drinks (I can recommend some that are good for you) are another good option since they help replenish electrolytes. Just be careful of which brand you buy since many can contain a ton of sugar, which helps give them energy, sure, but the crash they experience afterwards isn’t worth the short burst of energy they may get in the beginning.
After running around for a few hours playing baseball, chances are your child will be exhausted. It’s important to make sure they get an adequate amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause irritibility and overall moodiness, which isn’t something someone would want in a fellow teammate. Can you imagine trying to play a game with someone who hasn’t had enough sleep? They would throw temper tantrums and wouldn’t be able to concentrate! They say there is no crying in baseball, but crying is exactly what would happen without enough rest. Lack of sleep also effects memory, and after a day of learning new moves and techniques to the game, that’s the last thing anyone would want.
Rest isn’t just important for the mind, though. The body needs a break, as well. Allowing your body to rest gives it a chance to repair any damaged tissue and replenish energy stores. If you don’t allow your body to rest for a bit, it will keep breaking down from intense exercise, which decreases sports performance, and what’s the point of playing a sport if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover? So tell your mini Yogi Berra it’s ok to take a break, no matter how much they want to keep playing!
I’m very proud of the teams I have coached and what they accomplished during a season. One of my favorite things too see is the look on a kid’s face when they throw a perfect pitch or hit a fly ball. I can tell they have a sense of pride in what they’re doing, and are happy knowing that their hard work and determination paid off. It gives them the confidence to try other sports or activities they didn’t think they were able to, and gives them something to talk about with friends, family and neighbors. “Guess what!” they’ll exclaim with a tone of excitement and pride, “I threw a no-hitter!”
My biggest reward with coaching is knowing that I’m a part of something so wonderful a feeling that is completely irreplaceable. I’ve developed the Purple Crushers P.R.I.D.E. for my team and do whatever I can to encourage them to keep going and be proud of everything they do – no matter how big or small the accomplishment may seem. Every game there is a reward for player development – The Purple Crusher Spirit Award! It is the coveted award on our Team as the number one criteria for being chosen is the enthusiasm for the game.
So oil your glove, lace up your cleats, get out there and show some P.R.I.D.E! It’s time to play ball!!