June 17, 2024

BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) – A study looking at adolescents and sports found that kids participating in team sports had less mental health struggles compared to their peers.

Dr. Matt Hoffmann, one of the study’s authors and Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton, joined First News at Four to break down the findings.

The research looked at children aged 9 to 13 years who fell into one of four groups: participation in team sport, participation in individual sport, participation in team and individual sport, and non-sport participation. Over 11,000 kids from across the U.S. were surveyed.

In the study there were two main findings, kids who were playing team sports such as volleyball, basketball, or football had fewer health difficulties than kids who played no sports.

“We know that kids benefit from social interactions. They can make friends on teams. They generally, hopefully have a good time and these factors might sort of protect them from any mental health challenges or difficulties they might experience,” Hoffmann said.

The second main finding, which Hoffmann called “surprising” was that kids who played individual sports such as gymnastics, tennis, golf, or swimming had greater mental health difficulties than adolescents who played no sports.

While Hoffmann was quick to point out that there are some studies showing individual sports can be good for children, he said that at the same time individual sports can at times be quite stressful.

“There can be a lot of pressure on these kids. They’re playing by themselves,” said Hoffmann. “They don’t have teammates to sort of share any losses with, so that could be sort of anxiety inducing, and that might be the reason why we saw this correlation between playing individual sports and greater signs of depression, anxiety, and social withdraw.”

However, Hoffmann warns this shouldn’t discourage parents from having their kids in individual sports.

“We just need to pay attention perhaps a little bit more with kids who are playing individual sports,” he suggested.

Hoffmann stressed the importance of communication between parents and coaches with kids. He also recognized that stress and anxiety are a normal part of sports–so long as they are at at healthy and reasonable levels.

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