Playing sports as a kid can benefit mental health, study shows

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A new study shows that youth sports can have a positive impact on kids’ self-esteem.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry and included more than 4,000 children who were monitored from ages 6 to 13.

This week at the YMCA fields in Wright Park, volunteer coaches from Europe and South American helped run a Challenger Sports soccer camp.

One coach, Aidan Twohig, said playing a sport definitely benefits mental health.

He said after COVID-19, it’s good for kids to get connected with one another again.

“It’s really important for the kids to get back out socializing again,” Twohig said. “I think it’s great to see everyone back out with a smile on their face, especially in the summertime as well. It’s brilliant.”

He said with such a range of sports in America, practicing different ones can help get kids create building blocks for life.

“I think it’s good for them to interact with different people, make new connections, create new friends,” Twohig said. “And hopefully those friends they can have for a couple years or even life.”

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The YMCA of Lincoln said the parents, coaches and directors in its youth sports programs have also seen the benefits in their kids.

Liam McGill, 12, said he plays basketball, soccer and cross country, and he’s even trying out archery and flag football.

He said that playing a sport has helped him make friends and that it’s important to be part of a team.

“You’ll get more involved in the sport, and you’ll know what it’s like to play on a team if you ever do join a team as an adult,” he said.

His mom, Abigail McGill, said getting kids outside and letting their energy out helps them stay happy.

“Finding something that is physical and also fun for them, whatever that may be, is going to help them build healthy habits throughout their lifetime,” she said.

The author of the study said helping children find a sport they’re good at and enjoy is important to achieving positive effects.

Seth Kendall, a sports program director with the YMCA, said there may be times a kid might not like a certain sport, but the key is to have them try.

“You get these kids who might be shy, they kind of get thrown into it, and that kind of brings them out of their shell,” he said. ” You’ve got kids who don’t even like the sport the older they get that are just doing it because they have friends on the team.”

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