Kids who play sports are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, new study says

Denise Dador Image
Saturday, August 24, 2019
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A study shows that playing sports - particularly team sports - can help kids dealing with adverse life events, and the good mood effects were long lasting.

Children and young adults are complaining of stress more so than any other generation before. We also know this is the generation that grew up with smartphones and tablets.

New research reveals the solution may be to engage in a sport, but not just any sport, one that requires teamwork.

Kicking around a soccer ball is just for fun because 8th-grader Ian Wipfli saves his more serious moves for water polo.

"It's just fun," Ian said. "I can talk with my friends a bit and I can just play."

The physical benefits of participating in youth sports is well known. Now, a recent study shows playing team sports can help protect kids dealing with adverse life events, and the good mood effects were long lasting.

Dr. Joe Austerman with Cleveland Clinic Children's said, "They didn't get as depressed as often as kids that were not engaged in group activities or sports."

Coach Andy Chidester of Assist Athletics in La Canada runs a youth sports programs for elementary school-aged kids.

"Good or bad, win or lose, you're with your group. You're in it together," he said.

On a team, Chidester said kids learn social skills that help them interact with their peers more effectively.

"Just being part of that experience and being together with the group," he said. "You're not going to feel alone."

"Maybe like I'm having trouble with school and I can go to water polo and play with others," Ian said. "And be on a team."

Through team sports, kids learn how to lead and how to negotiate with other kids to reach a common goal.

"Activities that help build persistence, and resilience, are very positive influences later on in life," Austerman said.

Chidester adds if one team sport is good, then playing multiple sports is even better.

He said, "So many kids these days are specializing at such a young age that I think it leads to a lot of burnout. I'm offering classes where they can learn the fundamentals; play scrimmages with other kids and just have fun doing it."

Playing with different types of personalities requires compromise, another skill Ian knows will serve him well.

"Later in life, I won't get to choose who I get to work with so maybe this will teach me something," he said.