By Amie Rose, guest contributor
Every year, millions of children lace up their cleats and hit the pitch on youth soccer teams in the U.S. The physical benefits of having children playing sports like soccer is well-documented—they have lower obesity rates, fewer cases of Type 2 diabetes and are overall healthier kids. But here are 10 other benefits of soccer that you might not know:
For many children, playing on a team leads to greater confidence. That’s because they learn how to communicate with their teammates on the field, how to perform with correct technique, and how to work together and get along with their peers and a coach. Playing soccer also increases children’s physical strength and endurance, increasing their confidence in themselves. Soccer helps build self-confidence in children.
Children who play soccer learn how to balance different parts of their lives. To succeed as a soccer player, you’ve got to practice and play in games. But kids also have school, homework, family commitments—and they probably want some downtime with friends. So they learn early on how to set a schedule and prioritize what they want and need to do.
When children join a soccer team, they form relationships with kids—boys and girls—they might not otherwise know. Players form bonds through group activities, weekly practices, and games. They learn how to interact and communicate to succeed. They bond over wins and losses. Soccer players form friendships on the field.
Because soccer is the most popular sport in the world, children who play and watch soccer learn about different countries and cultures. When kids see a tournament like the World Cup, with dozens of countries playing, they may become interested in the world around them. Soccer is a good way to introduce your child to other parts of the world.
Kids who play soccer are busy—they don’t have time to be bored. They’ve got at least one game a week, maybe more, practices and occasionally tournaments. Plus, soccer games are fast-paced, and a great cure for a dull Saturday morning. Soccer isn’t only a way to get your kids active; it’s a healthy way to end boredom.
Soccer helps children learn to focus, a valuable skill that will serve them well in life. When a player is standing on the field, it’s easy to get distracted by spectators, birds flying by, cars on the nearby street and kids playing on the next pitch. But if players want to succeed, they learn to focus on their game. They learn to “spot the distraction, stop the distraction,” and shift their focus and thoughts back to the match. Learning how to focus will serve a child well in school and life.
When children play on a team, they learn to work for what’s best for the team, not just themselves. They decide to pass the ball to the teammate with the best shot at a goal. Kids learn to block an opposing player for a teammate instead of going for the ball themselves. Team sports like soccer teach children to think of more than themselves.
Experiencing the highs and lows of sports helps a child learn resiliency. In soccer, sometimes a team wins, and sometimes it loses. Sometimes practice is fun, and sometimes it’s grueling. Learning resilience as a child makes for a well-rounded life.
Soccer games are fast-paced. But players have to learn the sport through practice—and that takes patience. They’ve also got to be patient on the field, watch and wait for their turn with the ball. Patience is a hard skill to learn, and soccer will help.
Some people are born leaders, and others learn to lead. In soccer, the leader is the person with the ball, so every player has to learn to be a leader. That’s because the player with the ball has to make the right decision for the team—pass, shoot, go right or left? Soccer teaches children leadership skills.
Millions of children in the U.S. play soccer every year. They learn about physical fitness and get the benefits of activity, but it pays off in other ways too. They learn about leadership, patience, resilience, selflessness, and focus. They broaden their horizons, cure boredom, make new friends and learn about life balance and self-confidence.