Impact of Sports Programs

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When young people don’t believe they have a future worth looking forward to, they are much more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as dropping out of school, joining a gang, using drugs and alcohol, and engaging in unsafe sexual activity. Being involved in an organized, supervised, engaging sports program gives youths a positive way of getting the recognition they need—even though most don’t yet understand how vital positive recognition is. Research supports the reality that young people involved in sports are far less likely to engage in delinquent behavior than their peers.

When a sports program focuses on hard work, fairness, leadership, responsibility, and achieving personal goals in addition to the game skills, it becomes a support system for at-risk youth. The team and the coaches serve as a second family for many players, providing not only structured, safe, out-of-school activities, but also fostering a sense of peer-based nurturing and belonging that they might otherwise seek from a gang.  Coaches also serve as mentors and advocates for young people who might otherwise be lacking positive adults in their lives.

Many of the qualities that sports programs foster in young people—including the ability to manage anxiety and aggression levels, accept and follow instructions, and block out distractions while working hard toward a goal—also serve a vital role in their everyday lives. Working as a team allows each member to bring his or her own talents to the group. Each child can be valued and seen as an asset rather than as a problem to be dealt with, as many at-risk children and teens are often viewed.

Sports, like the arts, are particularly effective at reaching at-risk youths because many of these young people are self-motivated to be part of the team. While the kids are focused on having fun, they are also gaining valuable life skills that can be used in other areas of their lives. These skills are learned through demonstration, modeling, and practice and include the ability to perform under pressure, build interpersonal communication skills, solve problems, set and meet goals, appropriately respond to both success and failure, work as a member of a team, and accept and learn from positive and constructive feedback.

Being part of a sports team also helps build self-confidence and healthier, stronger bodies. Teens and preteens who exercise regularly have lower levels of anxiety and depression and a more positive self-image than their less active peers. They also tend to have better relationships with their parents or guardians and use drugs less frequently. Beyond these physiological and social effects, regular exercise as part of a sports team improves strength and endurance, controls weight, builds healthier bones and muscles, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

On the most basic level, supervised sports programs give young people a safe place to have fun together. On a deeper level, sports programs give children and teens the chance to explore their own potential by competing against themselves and goals they set. The Claretians recognize the importance of the youth in any community and the tremendous impact they have on the future of that community. By giving these young people opportunities to learn and grow through team sports, the Claretians are helping to build the next generation of community leaders.

Read more about tCI's impact through sports and health programs on our Impact Blog.

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