Are sports enough?

We've talked quite a bit on the Family Anatomy show about the importance of extracurricular activities. Research shows that participation on teams can have a positive impact on school performance and can increase a student's feeling of connectedness to their school, reducing the likelihood that they'll drop out. I often recommend these activities for kids who are having social difficulties because it places them in a supervised setting with clear expectations and rules in a group of kids with a shared interest. A study in the new issue of Developmental Psychology looked at the impact of various extracurriculars on a range of areas: academic performance, self-confidence, social connections, aggression/rule breaking, and caring for others. They found that participation in sports produced more positive results than little or no involvement in activities. Interestingly, sports plus other activities produced the best results. One of my kids would sign up for everything if we let him. We limit him to two activities - he's currently in soccer and a martial art, but he's asked to sign up for swimming, skating, scouts, etc., etc. I'm certain my younger son will follow in his footsteps once he's six and he's old enough to sign up for the same things. I've noticed that he's learning to cope with losing, his confidence has improved, and he's become less shy than he was previously. Even with the time that's taken up by his activities, he's still motivated to keep up with his schoolwork and usually doesn't require much encouragement to do his best work. I know that I'm lucky to have kids who are interested in schoolwork as well as extracurriculars.

When we talked to parent coach Barb Desmarais on the show, we asked about encouraging teens to sign up for activities. She suggested that, although parents couldn't force their children to sign up for things, they can facilitate participation by arranging drives and removing obstacles to their kids' participation. At our house, we've found it a lot easier when teachers give the week's homework on Monday so we can schedule homework time around extracurriculars.

How have you encouraged your kids' involvement in extracurriculars? Do you have suggestions that might help other parents? Leave us a comment.

You can read more about the study here.

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