In today’s society, there is a clear emphasis on mental health, and the importance of both recognizing and helping those in need. As many coping mechanisms and different strategies emerge to help combat rising rates in anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles, a few questions arise about the values and downfalls of one of the most common outlets: club sports.
While club sports are undoubtedly still running strong and are very advantageous, there is beginning to be a decline in the overall participation of club sports. One of the primary reasons: the cost. A 2017 study by TD Ameritrade shows that, “parents whose children participated in ‘highly competitive or elite teams run by a non-school organization’ were spending on average $100 to $500 per month, per child. And at least 20 percent of them dished out $1,000 per month,” which is undeniably one of the major disadvantages of club sports. However, even though they have been shown to be expensive, and have always been time-consuming, there must be a consideration of the other side: mental health benefits.
There is a clear effect on mental health with club sports, and it shows the benefits. A study by the Department of Local Government, Sport, and Cultural Industries in Western Australia claim that 80% of athletes participating in club sports say it helps people “feel good about ourselves, build our confidence and self-esteem, create close friendships, and they have a positive impact on children’s lives.” Moreover, in another study performed by that organization, it says, “playing sports reduces psychological distress by 34% (1-3 times a week) and 46% (4+ times a week). People who participate in sports, clubs and organised recreational activity enjoy better mental health.”
Scientifically speaking, exercise releases endorphins, along with chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which tend to make people feel happier and more rewarded. When someone is constantly playing their sport, those chemicals will be released more often, which has been shown to assist the mental health of athletes. These more positive emotions assist athletes through the constant travel and work of competitive athletics, which translates to their daily lives, giving them essential skills such as teamwork, cooperation and a motivated work ethic, which are qualities rewarded by both the academic scene and the social scene. Those particular rewards allow student-athletes to be happier and more emotionally fulfilled. Along with that, the time that club sports take teaches these athletes how to manage their time appropriately and efficiently, which allows them to be more organized in their academic life, which relieves some of the mental struggles that go with the pressure of the academic world.
One of the most important pieces is the social aspect. In today’s social scene, it is essential to find healthy coping mechanisms as mental health becomes more and more relevant, which is something that club sports assist in. As said by a study done by three researchers analyzing post-graduate mental health of athletes, “According to study co-author Catherine Sabiston, PhD, of the University of Toronto, ‘Team sports offer a heightened emphasis on group goals, social support, and sense of connection that provide more opportunity for learning adaptive coping strategies that can be essential for long-term mental health.’” Therefore, club sports not only assist athletes in current mental health, but allow them to develop healthy coping mechanisms for the future.
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