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Benefits of team sports for kids

Emotional and physical benefits extend past season

Posted: August 25, 2008 6:49 p.m.
Updated: October 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Chris Applegate, executive vice president of Hart Baseball, believes learning about teamwork and respect is a positive skill that kids develop from engaging in team sports. Socialization is also a big part of after-school sports programs.

While after-school sports and weekend games may seem like a good hobby for the youngsters of the Santa Clarita Valley, the benefits of being enrolled in team sports from a young age go beyond knowing how to pitch a baseball or aim a soccer ball.

Local sports organization leaders see emotional and physical benefits that will last well after the season ends.

Joe Franco, assistant regional commissioner for AYSO Soccer, said socialization is a major aspect of youth sports.

"Team sports are a vehicle that kind of sets them up for society," he said, adding that kids learn to work with each other.

Chris Applegate, executive vice president of Hart Baseball, believes learning about teamwork and respect is a positive skill that kids develop from engaging in team sports.

At the beginning of each season, Applegate, who has coached a variety of sports for 19 years, said players are encouraged to show respect for their teammates, parents, umpires and anyone else involved in the sport.

That respect builds better players and strong friendships and gives kids a way to become physically fit.
Franco said he enjoys working with kids as they grow over the course of a season.

"By the end of the year, it clicks and they understand the game," he said. "They feel good about themselves and the parents light up."

But finding the right fit can mean sampling from all types of sports.

Applegate believes if kids begin to show an interest in sports at an early age, parents should encourage them to get involved in team sports.

"They need to expose them to as many sports as possible," he said.

Franco said by starting kids early, it gives them direction later on.

"It allows the kid to make decisions about what direction they want to take," he said. "As you get older, there is a greater degree of specialization."

The city of Santa Clarita offers youth basketball, football, T-ball, volleyball as well as pee wee sports,
Dianna Boone, the city's recreation administrator, said clinics, generally held before league sign ups, are a good way for parents to gauge how interested a child is in a particular sport.

Finding the right coach is key, too.

Boone said the city's youth sports program brings together coaches that have been trained to coach with a positive attitude.

"Studies have shown that children play primarily to have fun," she said. "The number one reason they quit is when it's no longer fun."

With that, Boone said the city puts an emphasis on having fun rather than winning the game.

Plus, kids can learn more than basic skills through a sport. They will understand how to be comfortable with movement, she said.

As for the right age, Franco, who has coached soccer for around a decade, and has coached basketball and baseball, said parents are the best judges of whether sports is an option for their kids.

"You don't want to put them in a situation that really goes against the grain of what they have," he said.
For instance, some kids work better in individual sports, like swimming or even fencing.

When parents find the right sport, Boone said they need to be just as supportive of the coaches as they would their children's teachers.

"Negative cheering doesn't help them at all," she said, adding it doesn't encourage them or alter their performance.

While each sport will lead to a specific skill set, Applegate and Franco believe the lessons from team sports translates into life lessons.

Applegate, who has coached basketball and soccer along with baseball, believes sports skills relate to the "real world."

"These same principles move into the business world and social skills," he said. "You will get out of life what you put into it."

Franco echoed the point.

"When they can go and learn a position and be successful, it's like a really remarkable metamorphosis," he said.


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