Studies carried out on senior executives of Fortune 500 companies has shown that almost all of them played sports in school. While it might be hard to argue that sports participation could guarantee higher incomes, promotions, and better jobs, the leadership skills and development of teamwork, hard work, and determination might help prepare children to be leaders at work and in their communities later in life.
In any case, playing sports is essential for children’s overall development, and not just physically. It has been scientifically proven that children benefit socially and academically from playing sports too, whether the child excels at sports or not, and all of this contribution to overall development has an impact on your child’s future:
Improved health & wellbeing
The physical benefits are obvious. Children’s health is improved and lives are extended by playing sports, particularly during focused training programs, and it also inspires them to be more active. Children who exercise regularly are less prone to sickness and disease; in the UAE much attention has been given to the role of sports and exercise in decreasing the rates of obesity and diabetes in particular over the last few years.
Whilst sport and exercise are good for children’s health, in the often hot and humid conditions of the UAE, this needs to be properly supervised, ensuring that they are taking on fluids to keep hydrated and that they have regular breaks.
Development of social skills
Participating in a team sport, such as football, means children have to interact with one another, naturally improving their communication skills, which also leads to greater self-confidence. The bond within the team helps children to fully express themselves, thereby enhancing their self-esteem, and teamwork is continually developed once children discover that they work better together.
Research shows that children who participate in sports from a young age have a higher chance of experiencing academic success. Sports promote better time management as children are required to manage both their study time and play time effectively. They also learn the importance of setting goals and working towards them.
Connecting with the (non-virtual) world
As children become increasingly dependent on electronic gadgets, toys, games and communications devices for their entertainment, even replacing outdoor activity such as running, jumping, skipping and cycling with the latest trends of motorized scooters and the latest ‘hover boards’, it is important to keep them connected to the real physical world. Taking part in a sport such as football gets them outdoors, running around, meeting real people and playing actual opponents who are in front of them – it all helps to keep them grounded and provides the essential balance to the digital revolution.
Real leadership is comprised of six core skills and competencies: strategic thinking, self-awareness, relationship-building, agility and adaptability, the ability to inspire, and understanding of teamwork. Each of these skills can be developed and enhanced by playing sports: Children enhance their strategic thinking when they try to figure out the best methods of outwitting their opponents; they exercise self-awareness, relationship building, and awareness of the team when taking control and making decisions. No game is ever the same, so each and every child is constantly tasked with being agile and adaptable in terms of their tactics and thinking about the bigger picture to win the game. The inspiration is obvious, from those who score the goals and to those who pass the ball to the scorer, to those who prevent goals and succeed in tackles and difficult passes and maneuvers – each player in the team has different strengths which inspire the others.
A happy childhood is one that is full of fun and laughter. Arguably one of the most crucial benefits to children playing team sports is that they get an excellent opportunity to make new friends. In the melting pot of cultures that is Dubai, sport can be a uniting force in exposing children to different nationalities, cultures and traditions in a very relaxed and comfortable environment, leading them to learn more about their society and the world around them, and to appreciate cultural diversity. They are guaranteed to interact with other children and have fun, and if they enjoy what they do then they will continue to do it which ensures that they will continue to reap all of these benefits.
Starting them young
Children from as little as 18 months old can be involved in team sports. At such a young age, an added benefit of playing team sports is the development of spatial awareness and motor skills from practicing drills and exercises on a regular basis.
In the UAE, where parents are under increasing pressure, it can seem like a moment’s reprieve to allow children to have fun under the supervision of trained professionals, however children who take part in these sports as toddlers should be with their parents. This gives an added benefit of quality time together, and parents can actively be involved in the development of all aspects of the child by taking part in the sports games with them. Even as the children get older and parents are not needed to participate, by physically being there to cheer them on they are actively demonstrating their support and pride in their child, helping to develop their self-esteem and self-worth.
As an adult it can be harder to make life changes to support an active lifestyle, yet with the increase in obesity within the UAE, it is obvious that this is necessary. Good habits such as regular exercise and an active life are much more easily formed as children, and if maintained, are likely to be taken into adult life, thus continuing to prolong those benefits.
Giving your child the best start in life does not end once they go off to school or leave your home, you can really make a difference to the rest of their lives now by getting them involved in the team sport of their choice.
This blog is contributed by our guest blogger:
Jim Reilly , Commercial Director of IFA Sports