The benefit of sports on the mind and bodies of their practitioners is invaluable. Countless scientific studies have concluded that physically active people are *in general* healthier than those who neglect exercising. So the question remains: why sport?
Read on for the answer.
Of course, we should always consider the logical contention about the detriment of high-impact games in terms of potential injury. Indeed, there are always risks (to the body’s anatomical structure that is engaged) in playing football, doing gymnastics, practising martial arts, or even ballet. However, we can say that there is potential for injury in any activity that includes motion: walking, showering, and even combing our hair. The more critical part of contemplating this argument is that the benefits of sport vastly outnumber its detriments.
Before proceeding, I would like to preface the following content by stating my respect and admiration for all forms and levels of skill development required in all types of sports.
I want to clarify that my use of the term “sports” is not exclusive to those disciplines I played before; neither is my analysis of the content I have sourced this write up with exhaustive of the benefits of sports and exercise.
For a more comprehensive and complete understanding of the benefits of physical activity, you may want to refer to the sources provided in the bibliography and footnotes.
Having been competitively involved in the sports of Gymnastics, tumbling, and martial arts from a young age, I can appreciate both sides of the argument. I saw many injuries, both on myself and my teammates. I also understand the psychological turmoil that failure can cause.
I have witnessed sports change lives. I have seen unique adaptations that made tremendous differences in the possible futures of those who underwent them. This statement implies that of all the things I am grateful for, having seen sports save lives is an experience that will never leave me.
I can spend hours, and by reason, many pages, sharing the instances when involvement in organised play has made a remarkable difference to me and others around me, and I might in a different post. However, respectful of my opening statement, I want to look at a small part of what science says about the value of playing sports for personal improvement.
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Scientific research is in and of itself a relatively new concept in the areas of human development. Academic research about the benefit of sports on the human body has only become prominent in the last two decades, with a significant movement towards it in the late nineteen-eighties and through the nineteen-nineties.
This research has, according to sportsanddev.org, produced an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence on the positive effects of physical games as part of a healthy lifestyle. They maintain that the positive, direct effects of engaging in regular activity are particularly apparent in preventing several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis. 
Sports are also considered an essential tool in treating and therapy for mental illness.
However, despite all the positive data resulting from responsible scientific research, we still see declining registration numbers in athletic programs.
A phenomenon that begs several questions:
1) if the current information points to the immense benefit of sport, how can we ensure that the general public is more receptive to it?
2) Is there a different, more complex dimension to the issue of physical inactivity in our societies?
These questions require the perspective of the social sciences.
Psychology and socioeconomic factors appear responsible for much of the inactivity we currently experience. They also show the inherent need to provide better and more current public scientific education on the subject. I will attempt to answer these questions and address the issues they point to in a later write-up.
Note: The issue of inactivity has worsen during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For now, let’s look at the idea that the environment in which we carry out any activity is often a determining factor in our performance. This environment is the physical location, its cleanliness and integrity, and the integrity of the equipment used to play the sport of our choosing.
However, environmental components often include factors the practitioner may not have complete control over, like the people with whom the activity is performed. Observers, teammates, and most importantly, our instructors or coaches will ultimately determine how we play and enjoy our sports and games.
This point is a good indication that the social consequences of sport can also be far-reaching.
In their investigation of antisocial and prosocial behaviour in adolescent athletes, Rutten et al. found that “coaches who maintain good relationships with their athletes reduce antisocial behaviour and, that exposure to relatively high levels of sociomoral reasoning within the immediate context of sporting activities promotes prosocial behaviour.” (p. 263) 
Of course, inquiries into what makes a good coach have also been the topic of study in the last decade and carry over to other human development, communication, and business areas.
Globally, sport is a unifying force that transcends human social constructs and a pragmatic solution to many of the sociopolitical issues we currently face.
Last year, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace concluded with the recommendation, among others, to establish an International Day of Sport with the aim to mainstream sport in policy-making at all levels as a contribution to education, human development, healthy lifestyles and a peaceful world.
In addition, a concrete call for action came for governments to ensure the following: adequate financial resources for quality education; increase in investment for infrastructure development; provision of safe and accessible public spaces for physical activity and sport; increased contextualised and adapted sport-based initiatives for peace-building and violence prevention; inclusion of social development legacies as part of planning and implementation of all sports events; and the development and strengthening of monitoring and evaluation tools on the social and economic impact of sport; and finally more interdisciplinary research to provide scientific evidence and best practices of sport-based interventions. 
“Sport can be a powerful handmaiden for peace and reconciliation. It can bring us closer through shared celebration of achievements of universal appeal and attraction.”-Vuk Jeremić, President of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly
The small amount of data I have given you here provides a reasonable basis for looking at sport as an engine for self-improvement (and development). It shows the physical, mental, and social implications of playing together, albeit in a limited scope.
It is neither easy nor is it imperative to decide on a specific activity in which to become involved; however, it is of great importance to take on the responsibility to give sports a good try to discover what we enjoy doing.
Children should be exposed to as many activities as possible while observing their responsibility of commitment.
In other words, children should try all activities they have access to but should always be allowed and expected to complete a given period of [time] involvement before stopping. The ramifications of “quitting” or “giving up” at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons can be detrimental to the child’s mental and social development.
Echoing a point I made earlier about the importance of finding a good coach; I would like to emphasise that understanding the consequences of non-commitment and communicating them to the athlete are the direct responsibility of the coach and the caregiver/parent.
There are many more direct results of playing sports. I encourage you to learn more about sports science, psychology and other social sciences. I want to conclude by reiterating two main points I have attempted to explain here.
First, involvement in sports can be of great physical and mental benefit to the practitioner as it offers a viable framework for self-enhancement.
Second, as a result of enhancing the individual, sports will positively affect society’s state.
It would be easy, and many would want to philosophise about these conclusions, yet the message’s essence is better received in its simplicity:
Why sports? Because it is good for us and those around us.
This post resides at Pulsars Gymnastics website. I wrote it for them on June 12, 2018, I edited parts of it to fit the context and style of this blog.
Thank you for stopping by.
— Coach José
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