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
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Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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