By Ken Reed
A new study reveals that kids who only play individual sports tend to have more mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, than peers who participate in team sports exclusively or play no sports at all. Moreover, children who only play team sports also have fewer mental health challenges than peers who don’t play sports at all. In addition, the study revealed that kids who participated in both team and individual sports were no more or less likely than those who abstained from sports altogether to have mental health challenges. The study was published in PLoS ONE.
The findings are based on a data base of 11,000 kids, ages 9 to 13, from across the United States. Matt Hoffman, the study’s lead author and a sports psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, says the study shouldn’t lead to parents discouraging kids from playing individual sports. But he says it should encourage parents of kids that only participate in sports like swimming, tennis, wrestling, golf, track and gymnastics to be aware that their child’s sports experience might be causing excess stress and anxiety. He suggests parents of individual sport athletes regularly check in with their young athletes to make sure they are enjoying their sports experience and that their stress levels are reasonable.
It’s important that individual sport athletes focus on development and enjoyment and not exclusively on winning or meeting certain performance standards, according to Rochelle Eime, a behavioral epidemiologist at Victoria University in Australia.
“Individual sports tend to be judgement-based, weight-focused, often appearance-heightened sports that heighten social comparison, competitiveness, and individual striving,” says Catherine Sabiston, a sports psychologist at the University of Toronto, who wasn’t involved in the study. “There is no one to ‘blame’ or ’thank’ other than yourself, and the pressure to perform is heightened.”
Hoffman says a good strategy for parents is to encourage participation in a broad range of activities — sports and non-sports — and to discourage specialization in a single sport at an early age.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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