Stop by any field or gym on a weekend and you will see kids participating in youth sports. With matching uniforms and their own fan base, they are experiencing what it is like to be part of a team. In the US, over 21 million kids ranging from ages 6 to 17 play team sports annually, and the startling statistic is that by age 6, 60% of boys and 47% of girls are already playing.

So what is the draw to youth sports? Is it the competition, the physical exercise, or possibly the social aspect? All of these are actually true to some extent, but when you ask kids, it comes down to the fun factor and how kids identify themselves. When surveyed, 34% of girls and 61% of boys say that sports are a big part of who they are. In addition, the number one reason that both genders quit organized sports is because they were no longer having FUN. Kids want to be part of something and they want to have fun in the process. But what about the higher lessons that organized sports offer?

Being a “student athlete” teaches lessons that foster success later in life and lead to being a better citizen. Not only does participating in sports help to combat childhood obesity, but it also aids in development of social skills, positive habits, and self-image. Statistically, students who participate in organized athletics achieve higher grades, have better attendance in school, and have less discipline issues. The academic/athletics balance offers a training ground for the work/life balance our youth will face as adults. Some of the life lessons that student athletes are exposed to include teamwork, work ethic, effort, sportsmanship, prioritization, emotional intelligence, and camaraderie.

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