With the spirit of camaraderie, the opportunity to hone physical and personal skills, the challenge and lessons of winning and defeat, teenagers today can experience a myriad of benefits by competing in sports in public schools. With the many benefits, however, teens competing in high school sporting events must simultaneously balance their athleticism with the potential dangers. An overly intense focus on the goal of winning can become a deteriorating catalyst for young teenagers, as many high school sports serve as catalysts that can push teens to a potentially dangerous edge.
As the drive to win is becoming increasingly strong among teens, many young athletes are falling to negative temptations in order to achieve their dreams of victory. While sports are certainly an integral component of the public high school experience, teens and parents must be aware of the appropriate signs, modes, and behaviors that will help foster positive athletic experiences.
Team Building and Public School Athletic Benefits
Whether teens are competing in team sports, such as football or volleyball, or are engaging in more individualized sports, like track, swimming, or cross-country, all high school sports are fundamentally designed to help teens develop stronger personal and intra-personal skills and talents. Athleticism, among many activities, offers teens a physical outlet to exert their troubles, anger, emotions, and other feelings. As hormones shift teens’ moods and thoughts, competition fosters an opportunity for teens to interact with fellow peers, coaches, and mentors, while helping them understand their own abilities and talents.
As students compete with fellow peers and competitors, teens are engaging in physical and mental activities that can guide teens to learn more about solid work-ethic, the importance of practice, and the imperativeness of determination. As Dr. Metzl and Dr. Shookhoff explain, “Given that athletics involves all aspects of the human being, it is not surprising that participants benefit in all of the areas they mention.” As kids and teens participate in group competitions and activities, they are learning skills that apply to opportunities both on and off the playing field.
Adding to this complexity, researchers at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University report, “Kids who participate in organized sports do better in school, have better interpersonal skills, are more team oriented, and are generally healthier.” By participating in competitive athletics, kids are able to enhance their skills for self-reliance, team interaction, and are furthermore developing new structures of self-motivation
, discipline, and personal responsibility. More specifically, as Dr. Metzl and Shookhoff further assert, sports help teens to develop an array of personal skills, including resilience, valuing preparation, attitude control, time management, and long term thinking abilities, as “Athletes learn the fundamental lesson of sacrificing immediate gratification for long-term gain. This is the basis for personal success as well as for civilization in general, and no lesson can be more valuable.”
While teens competing in sports are certainly exposed to opportunities to enhance their personal and social development, athletes competing in public school sports simultaneously can expand their physical abilities and fitness levels. As teens today are exposed to an array of entertainment avenues that may foster laziness, such as television, video games, and other media devices, the traditional experience of sports, exercise, and kinesthetic activities help boost teens’ minds and bodies.
Adding to this, as teenagers’ bodies grow and adjust during their formative high school years, sports offer teens an opportunity to learn how to maneuver and adjust their constantly changing features and abilities. In addition, a teen’s hormones and chemical makeup are constantly in flux. However, sports and athleticism actually help the body produce more positive chemicals, such as endorphins and adrenaline, which helps individuals experience more stable moods, more positive feelings of happiness, and decreased feelings of depression or sadness.
While teens adopt an array of new and enhanced skills, as Metzle and Shookhoff outline, teens even more notably become a more rounded college applicant. When applying to colleges
, regardless of the collegiate location or status, most schools will review an applicant’s full four-year transcript—which includes grades, course load
, test scores, and extracurricular activities.
By participating in sports and other non-required clubs or groups
, an applicant is showing a prospective college his or her ability to manage academics with additional responsibilities. This shows a student’s self-discipline, social involvement, and general well-roundedness as a potential candidate for higher learning. Adding to this, if a student displays note-worthy abilities and athletic skills, some schools may offer chosen athletes with scholarship opportunities. Offering these scholarships for many public school athletes, colleges and universities often scout rising teenage athletes; depending on the teenager’s talent, the chance of admission into competitive colleges may be enhanced through athleticism.
Balancing the Pros and Cons of Competition
Potential Dangers of Competition and Sports
While any physical activity and sport can provide teens with incredible benefits and opportunities, parents and teenage athletes must also be aware of the potential cons of competition and athleticism. Specifically, as teens engage in competitive events and team sports, their exposure to peer-pressure and anxiety may certainly increase. For example, as The Associated Press,
revealed in their article “High School Wrestler Learned Training Dangers First Hand,” wrestling often boosts teens’ practices of intense physical exercise and dietary
restriction, leading to incredibly dangerous physical consequences. As wrestlers are forced to either gain or lose weight in order to compete in their desired weight class, many wrestlers engage in restrictive dieting that often involves severe caloric deprivation paired with an excessive pattern of cardio exercise to quickly, and dangerously, burn off body fat and weight. While the weight-gain and loss practices of wrestling are often considered to be a more drastic example of the dangers of athletics, any teen who feels suppressed by the pressures of competition may choose to engage in practices that can be harmful in order to win and encounter athletic success.
In addition to potential personal and social team-oriented pressures, Metzle and Shookhoff further support, “Sports can actually change the physiology of athletes and fans. Physical exertion can raise the level of pheromones and endorphins, brain chemicals that cause exhilaration. Exercise can also elevate the serum testosterone level, which makes the heart beat faster.” While exercise and competition can enhance the mood-boosting chemicals that help increase a teen’s feelings of happiness and success, both spectators and athletes can also “Feel depressed when their team loses and elated when their team wins.” While participating in sports may boost a teenagers’ general well-being and positive feelings, a losing season or a defeating game can most certainly lead to the adverse of any positive effect.
How to Guide Teens to Safely Compete
While teens may be subjected to some forms of potential danger, parents can help
promote their teen’s safe competitive drive by remaining encouraging, without focusing too much on just winning. Expounding on this, Metzle and Shookhoff assert that if teenagers and parents abstain from the intense focus on winning, the benefits of high school sports can be enhanced: “If they remain uninfected by the toxins of winning at all costs and instead focus on effort and fair play, youth sports can be beautiful, exciting, and fun. They can provide kids with an extraordinary opportunity to express their talents and their character, to run around screaming and laughing with joy.”
Adding to this, as the doctors further explain, the sole job of parents and coaches of young athletes is to serve as guides that can maximize the athleticism benefits, while simultaneously aiming to minimize the potential deficits. To achieve this, parents and coaches should strive to keep the long-term perspective of sports and competition at the forefront, while teaching teenagers how to do the same.
In addition, as teenagers’ physical elements, such as weight, size, or dietary choices, may become scrutinized by themselves or their fellow peers, parents can avoid common dietary and exercise issues that arise during athletic sports seasons by enforcing specific rules during sports seasons. For example, during wrestling season, parents can set a “dinner rule,” where teens must be forced to eat dinner with the family. Adding to this, if a parent is concerned about their son / daughter over-engaging in competition, parents can speak with their teen about their concerns, and ask their teen if they need any assistance.
Also, as a teen is forced to balance the many obligations of both academia and athleticism during a sport season, teens’ grades may drop or their social interaction with friends may decrease. If this occurs, parents can always take advantage of the insight and experience of a teen’s coach. For example, if the teen of a concerned parent refuses to share their thoughts or issues or continues to decline in their school or behavior, parents can ask an experienced coach to speak with the teen, or can even ask the coach to keep an extra watch on the struggling athlete. Oftentimes, if the concern is valid and realized, coaches will force teens to sit out during games or competitions until their health, attitude, and safety is improved and ensured.
Joel, Fish. Magee, Susan. 101 Ways to be a Terrific Sports Parent. Simon and Schuster, 2003.