By Isabella Markert, guest post
A study by University of Illinois researcher Dr. Chuck Hillman found that physical activity activates the brain. In fact, “after children went on a 20-minute walk, MRI scans of their brains showed the highest amount of neuro-electric activity.”
Playing soccer certainly involves this brain-benefitting physical activity. But the effects go further: soccer can also help kids develop traits that will help their careers, academic success, and happiness. With the ability to be teachable, lose with grace, focus, be aware of the wider-world, and develop a habit of physical activity, kids are sure to feel the positive effects of youth soccer for their whole lives.
As desirable characteristics go, teachability ranks at the top. A willingness to learn from people, experience, and formal schooling helps kids and adults alike become more intelligent and open-minded.
To do well in soccer, kids must be teachable: eager to learn and willing to accept correction. Thriving Family points out that “the bigger issue [involved with teachability]is humility and respect for authority. The coach might make decisions your child doesn’t agree with; the referee or umpire might make a bad call. Still, your child needs to learn to deal with his frustration in a positive way.”
Cultivating this humble attitude will give kids the ability to thrive in any situation they face. It will teach them that they can’t control what other people do, but they can control their own actions and strive to learn from every experience.
Losing with Grace
Sore losers are hard to get along with. Almost worse? Sore winners. Playing soccer gives kids the opportunity to learn to win and lose with grace, loving the game no matter the outcome.
“It’s called ‘Honoring the Game’ in sports. . . . As an adult, how we define ‘game’ changes, but we hope [playing]sports teaches us all to win and lose with dignity and respect.”
Help your young soccer players learn this valuable trait by not treating the outcome of the game as the be-all-end-all of existence. Show them that being happy for other people’s success while still striving for our own success is a healthier way to live.
Focus and Attention
If you’ve ever tried to help a restless or bored child with homework, you know focus and attention are vital traits. “Kids need to get up, move around, and do something different and not too taxing after spending some time concentrating,” writes Dr. Jamie Howard. “They will benefit from taking some time to rest and recharge, especially during after-school homework time.”
What’s better at recharging young kids than a rousing game of soccer? Soccer helps players develop focus and attention because to be successful, “players need to always be aware and alert throughout the game or they will miss important plays and opportunities.” So soccer not only teaches kids the importance of focus, it also gives them ample opportunities to practice and develop this important trait.
Awareness of the World
Awareness of the wider world not only helps kids develop empathy, but it will also help them look good to recruiters in the future. “Significantly, twice as many business leaders rate knowledge and awareness of the wider world as an important skill as ability to speak a foreign language,” writes Jeremy Sutcliffe for the Guardian. “While they still regard language skills as important it is the ‘soft’ skills of cultural awareness and understanding global issues that are particularly valued.”
As young players grow and become more interested in soccer as a global game, they can start watching professional games that take place all over the world. This practice will expose them to a wide range of countries, languages, and cultures. But more than this, it will teach them to respect and appreciate differences among people and to realize that we can be united by common causes—even if that cause just happens to be the world’s favorite sport.
Habit of Physical Activity
We don’t need anyone to tell us that physical activity is beneficial and necessary. Exercising gives us energy, helps us sleep better, and even prevents disease. What we might need to be reminded of is that only a third of children are physically active every day and less than a fifth of teens do enough aerobic physical activity.
That might not sound so bad until we realize that it’s vital that children develop healthy habits early. Confirming what several studies have already concluded, a study in Sweden found that treatments to help participants be more healthy “helped obese children but had almost no effect on obese adolescents.” In other words, you can’t teach an adolescent dog new tricks!
Soccer is a perfect way to help kids form the healthy habit of exercise early. It’s fun and social, meaning that kids will likely be motivated to participate. As they develop their soccer skills and come to love the game and the thrill of endorphins that comes from exercise, physical activity will be a habit for life.
Soccer can help kids be teachable, lose with grace, focus, be wider-world aware, and develop a habit of physical activity. What great traits to have! Armed with the benefits soccer brings them, your kids will be able to face the world, well-adjusted, healthy, and happy.
From the g’days of her Australian childhood to the #blesseds of her American adulthood, words have always been Isabella’s favorite thing. She loves writing about any topic that will help her readers lead happier, more beauty-filled lives. She attended Brigham Young University, where she majored in English language and minored in editing. If Isabella could be doing anything, she would be tracking down the etymology of mysterious words, playing Liszt’s Liebestraum on the piano, or experimenting with a new recipe in the kitchen.