Research involving sport’s impact and influence on society, culture, youth development, and overall health are abundant. People’s perceptions vary from generally positive to more pessimistic. Advocates of sport often argue for it’s capacity to teach life skills needed for adulthood, provide a vehicle for social networking, increases emotional well-being, and provides an environment for promoting healthy and physically active lifestyles. Pessimists however, would caution against these assumed positive outcomes as a person’s experiences in sport are ultimately shaped by the coaches, parents, and sport organizers who are in control, and the influence of competition tends to favour the more advanced players. As a major advocate of sport, my love and appreciation for physical activity in all its forms originated from my first experiences in meaningful physical activity, sport. My hope is to share my personal experiences in sport and how my perspective has changed to appreciate the health benefits sport has to offer.
I grew up (like many kids I knew) living and breathing sports. Many positive outcomes of my participation in sport were being developed inherently or subconsciously; such as making friends, developing good work ethic, allow leadership characteristics to grow, and a general sense of confidence and positive attitudes towards life. As I got older, the influence of competition, team success, and individual success were of top priority for myself and others. Not only was there competition among competing teams, but within particular teams for playing time and individual roles. It was here where I learned and accepted the fact that within a team, roles are not always equal, but all roles are needed for team success. In addition, this competitive environment fostered the motivation to achieve both team and individual goals; such as the pursuit for a college scholarship. What is interesting is that through my youth experiences, little attention or thought was put into how my behaviours or routines derived from sport was going impact my attitudes towards health today. Baseball was seen as a vehicle to seek higher education; practicing my skills and physically training were solely to help me get there, and all the other characteristics discussed earlier were not even a thought.
Sport Participation and Adulthood
The transition into life after competitive sports and into full-time student and coach resulted in a shift in perception. This transition period, with the contribution of higher education in the field of human movement and physical activity, has contributed to shift away from the mindset of sport primarily as competition, towards an understanding and appreciation of it’s health benefits. Not only has it contributed to my appreciation for engaging in regular physical activity, but I also see it’s holistic benefits through personal experience. The positive characteristics (discussed earlier) I have acquired is a product of my lifelong involvement in team sports. To date, the majority of my physical activity stems from participation in recreational sports (i.e. mens league baseball, slo-pitch, and drop in basketball) because this is how I enjoy physical activity.
As the reader, there may be a few take home messages from my personal experiences in sport. First, perhaps we should be emphasizing more clearly to our youth the potential health and life skill benefits that sport has to offer outside of developing specific skills to win the next game. Although I was able to make the connection in my transition to adulthood, many others may not. Second, sport is one way to stay physically active, however keep in mind physical activity is not limited to the sport environment. And finally, the personal meaning of sport and physical activity to individuals will change over a life span, what is important is that this meaning contributes to a life long motivation to stay active.
Gould, D. and Carson, S. (2008). Life Skills Development Through Sport: Current Status and Future Development. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 1(1). 58-78.
Shores, K., Becker, C. M., Moynahan, R., Williams, R., & Cooper, N. (2015). The Relationship of Young Adults’ Health and Their Sports Participation. Journal of Sport Behavior. 38 (3). 306-320.