It is well-established that boys benefit from playing sports. Indeed, some experts contend that, given the way they hard-wired, boys need sports and competition.
Here are some of the reasons boys benefit from playing sports:
- Sports help keep boys active and physically fit.
- Sports provide boys a healthy way to channel their intense physicality and aggression and feel strong.
- Sports help boys develop self-control.
- Sports help boys develop self-confidence.
- Sports provide a place in which boys can form friendships with other boys. Indeed, sports are central to boys' social relationships. As a 2003 article in Developmental Review suggests, one of the functions of team sports for boys is to help them develop the social skills needed to form competitive groups or coalitions in adulthood, such as business organizations. Many of these developmental activities also mirror and provide practice for specific behavioral skills associated with primitive warfare, such as throwing and tracking the trajectory of projectiles (This might explain why fathers seem so intent on spending so much time with their sons practicing throwing and catching - they are hard-wired to pass these skills on to their sons to prepare them for warfare - and seem far less interested in teaching their daughters these same skills.)
- Sports provide boys increased social status. Research shows that male athletes across all sports are significantly more popular than non-athletic male peers, with the most popular group being those boys who play both contact and non-contact sports.
- Participation in sports makes it less likely that a boy will smoke cigarettes, use drugs, or think about or commit suicide (the suicide rate has almost tripled over the past forty years and is now the third leading cause of death among adolescents 15 to 24, with the rate for boys higher than for girls). Student-athletes are absent from school 50% less than their peers who do not play a sport.
- Boys who play sports in high school get better grades and do better on standardized tests.
- Sports participation reduces the dropout rate for boys in grades eight through twelve.
- Participation in high school sports has been linked to college enrollment (according to the U.S. Department of Education, student-athletes are four times more likely to attend college than their non-sports-playing peers), more months attending college and higher levels of post-secondary education, especially for students with initially low test scores and low educational aspirations. Boys' participation in football or basketball, in particular, is associated with higher educational aspirations.
- Men who participated in high school sports are more productive workers and earn higher wages. The National Longitudinal Study of Youth reports that men at an average age of 32 who had played high school sports were paid wages 31% higher than those who did not participate in high school athletics.
With childhood obesity on the rise, and a new study showing that obese children are more likely to be the victim of bullying, it is more important than ever that children play sports or engage in some form of physical exercise at least an hour every day.
Brooke de Lench is the Founding Executive Director of MomsTeam Institute and the publisher of MomsTeam.com. Producer of: The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer (PBS) and author of: Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (Harper Collins) is well known as the “Mother of Youth Sports Safety” for her tireless advocacy and solutions based work in safeguarding young athletes.
Sources: Numerous, including, Rosewater, Ann. "Learning to Play and Playing to Learn: Organized Sports and Educational Outcomes.
Updated: May 3, 2010 Updated: August 6, 2015