According to the latest State of Play report (which details trends and developments in youth sports), only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 play team or individual sports on a regular basis.
This is down from a 45% participation rate in 2008.
As someone who benefited greatly from being involved in youth basketball as a child and teenager, I find this number to be far too low.
It’s a worrying decline, and there’s potential for that number to get much lower with the rise of addicting video games and people living a more sedentary lifestyle.
Below I’ll share some of the many benefits of participating in youth basketball.
Hopefully this list will encourage some parents to sign their kids up next season.
12 Benefits of Playing Youth Basketball
Let’s take a look at some of the unquestionable upsides of getting involved with sports at a young age, and how they can last far beyond a child’s athletic career.
1. To Have Fun
The primary objective of youth basketball is to have fun.
While a lot of parents envision their kids growing up to be professional athletes and a lot of coaches dream of building a dominant team, youth sports exist so that kids can run around with their friends, laugh, and just be kids.
This is not to say that being competitive and wanting to win are bad things… they certainly have their merit, and will be mentioned on this list as well.
However, if youth sports cause more stress and tears than fun and smiles, then the adults have probably missed the mark.
Youth basketball practices and games should be enjoyable activities that kids look forward to so that they want to continue them for years to come.
2. To Build Relationships
Outside of school, sports are one of the most common ways to meet new people and form friendships that can last a very long time.
Some of the best friends I have today were people I met through youth basketball.
Especially in today’s world where so much of our interaction is done over the computer or phone, sports are a great way for kids to connect with other people face-to-face and build friendships that last years.
Even if sports are nowhere to be found in a child’s future, the ability to form relationships and maintain them is a skill that every person in every walk of life needs, and youth sports is a great opportunity for kids to develop that skill.
3. To Learn Teamwork
One of the infinite life lessons that can be instilled by youth basketball is how to become a member of a team.
Even at a young age, kids will learn how to treat other players on the team, how to treat their coaches, and how to interact with one another.
As sports get more competitive, they must learn their position on a team.
> Are they a leader who has to step up?
> Are they a bench player who has to support the team?
> Are they a role player who has to accept their limitations?
Working together and finding a role within a team are certainly concepts that reach far beyond the world of sports, and learning those skills at a young age can have a positive impact for the rest of a young athlete’s life.
4. To Practice Goal Setting
Another parallel between life and sports is the idea of working towards a common goal, which is something that all youth sports can teach.
Whether a child is part of a young grade school team whose goal is just to score their first basket or a more advanced team who aims to win every game, sports are about coming together because of a common purpose.
Youth sports have a unique ability to inspire kids to reach for a goal and then learn what it takes to reach it.
And even if they don’t reach these goals, playing team sports at an early age can still serve its purpose in a big way.
5. To Be Physically Active
Setting the precedent of being physically active early in life can help build a healthy lifestyle in later years.
In a world where entertainment is never more than a click away and you can do just about anything from the comfort of your own couch, it’s important for kids to pick up the habit of exercising and taking care of themselves, too.
Even in youth basketball, practices and games get kids away from the screen and out doing something that is good for them.
Then, if they grow to love the sport they are playing and want to continue at a higher level, even more will be expected of them physically.
But even if they don’t, youth sports can introduce them to that lifestyle.
6. To Experience Failure
Some things are inevitable in sports.
And no matter what, eventually, one of them is failure.
Even the best players have off days and even the best teams lose games.
For some people, failure is more difficult to deal with than others.
For many kids in particular, the common reaction might be to cry or to whine or to complain about why something wasn’t fair.
Since failure is not something that can be avoided in any walk of life, exposing kids to losing in the controlled environment of youth sports can be invaluable.
When they strike out on the baseball field, they will be faced with the decision of whether to throw their bat or to jog back to the dugout.
When they miss an open layup on the basketball court, they will have to decide if they will complain about a foul or if they will run back on defense.
Much of life is determined by how you react to failure, and youth basketball is a perfect way for kids to practice that skill.
7. To Experience Success
On the flip side, hopefully most kids will get to feel the thrill of winning and the excitement of making the big play at some point during the experience of playing youth basketball.
After hitting a homerun, will they flip their bat and show up the pitcher, or will they keep their head down and run the bases?
After scoring a touchdown, will they spike the ball and dance to celebrate, or hand the ball back to the referee?
Sportsmanship is a concept that should be enforced at every level of youth sports, because winning graciously is a skill that stays relevant throughout life.
8. To Find a Passion
Not every kid who plays youth basketball will end up falling in love with it.
The reality is that sports are not for everyone, and even if they pick up some of these life lessons, their experience in youth sports may not last for more than a few years.
However, some kids start playing youth sports and find something that becomes a passion for the rest of their life.
This may not mean making millions in the pros or a college scholarship, but it may still mean that they find something they love.
Exposing kids to sports at an early age creates the possibility that they will become genuinely enthusiastic about a positive activity that will get them active and also enforce the ideas mentioned throughout this list.
9. To Build Self Esteem
Sports have a unique way of building people up, which is something that a lot of kids need.
Finding success in sports or even just being part of a team can build confidence, self esteem, and the belief that they can accomplish a goal if they work for it.
Even if a child is not the best player in the game or if their team is sitting in last place, getting physically active and becoming part of a team can build independence even at the youth level.
Positive reinforcement from teammates and coaches during youth sports has the potential to carry over beyond the field.
10. To Interact With Other Adults
Learning how to be coached is another benefit of playing youth sports that will pay off far beyond the court or the field.
Chances are, a player’s parents may be the only authority figures in his life before being exposed to sports.
Especially as kids get a little older, being pushed by a coach may be the first time that an adult challenges them to go beyond their comfort zone and reach for a goal.
Of course, authority figures come in all shapes and sizes…
Some will be great role models who are great teachers, some will be enforcers who yell and scream, and most will be somewhere in between.
Regardless, this is another concept that goes far beyond sports.
Learning how to listen, take instruction, and respect different types of coaches will prepare kids to interact with college professors, bosses, and other authority figures down the road.
11. To Learn Time Management
One challenge that athletes at every level face is balancing their responsibilities.
Whether it is schoolwork, friendships, a job, or otherwise, players have to learn how to manage their time between sports and everything else.
As kids get older and eventually become adults, many find it difficult to juggle a number of different tasks.
Youth basketball can help prepare them for that time management in the “real world.”
Managing a practice schedule, making time for individual workouts, and taking care of your body with preparation and recovery are all things that young athletes have to do, and they can build good habits that go beyond sports.
12. To Build a Competitive Spirit
Winning and being competitive should not be the primary focuses of youth basketball.
However, as legendary football coach Herm Edwards ultimately reminded us:
“You play to win the game.”
While it may not be the main purpose of getting involved in sports, the reality is that the world is a competitive place, and it’s good for kids to be exposed to the idea of wanting to win.
Although youth coaches should not be focused only on which team wins the game and parents should not be worried only on who scores the most points, young athletes have the benefit of developing a competitive spirit at an early age.
In a world where human interaction is limited, being a member of a sports team will provide your child with many life lessons that are difficult to get elsewhere.
Here’s a list to sum up the post:
> To have fun
> To build relationships
> To learn teamwork
> To practice goal setting
> To be physically active
> To experience failure
> To experience success
> To find a passion
> To build self esteem
> To interact with other adults
> To learn time management
> To build competitive spirit
One of the best things a parent can do for their child is to put them on a youth basketball team.