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Oct, 2021

The Path to a Girl’s Well-Being Starts with Youth Sports

When it comes to children and sports, the data is pretty clear. Children between the ages of 8–18 years, on average, spend about 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. Nearly one-third of children in America can be classified as obese, which unfortunately is also a strong predictor of obesity into adulthood.  Sadly, only about 50% of children exercise regularly. But the benefits of youth sports participation go way beyond just simple caloric expenditure and its improvement of gross and fine motor skills—these benefits are even greater when we are talking about the positive advantages of participation for girls in youth sports. 

The Center for Disease Control has actually found that girls who participate in organized youth sports have improved academic achievement, a more positive sense of psychological well-being, and improved body image. The data also shows they accelerate in life and leadership skills, and goal-setting compared to their peers. Those who participate in sports go on to have less unprotected sex, they use less drugs and tobacco products, and they have lower rates of depression and thoughts of self-harm. In the long term they have lower breast cancer rates, less heart disease than their non-participating age-matched peers, and many of these benefits stay with them decades after they stop participating in youth sports. 

The low rates of youth sports participation for girls from poor urban and rural population zones, unfortunately, mirror the increase in many of the societal issues of drug use, unplanned pregnancy, obesity, and violence in that population. In many ways, we as a society need to think about youth sports participation as a legitimate, low-cost public health solution for some of the worst problems plaguing society today, and we need to expand that access to those who are at the greatest risk. It’s crazy to think how kicking a ball around a soccer field or shooting a basket, or running out a single can have such a ripple effect for years to come, but when done with moderation, it does. 

Programs such as First Baptist Athletics exemplify the perfect model of this low-cost, philanthropic, community outreach program that introduces youths to the benefits of organized athletic play without the pressures of the whole travel team culture. Children just need to be out moving, and First Baptist Athletics has always understood this. More importantly they need to be able to do this in a place where parents can be involved in a family-friendly environment, where sportsmanship reigns supreme, where fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters are encouraged to volunteer, officiate, coach, and more importantly . . . cheer.

Louis M. Profeta MD
Emergency Physician
First Baptists Pirates Baseball Team Summer 1969 

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