Across the world, 33 percent of all students experience bullying, according to UNESCO. In the face of this fact, a parent is left to wonder what can be done to alleviate some of the distress a child feels when faced with adversity at school. To this, many experts say that the answer is a team sport, like soccer. Aside from relieving stress in a way that only dynamic team sports can, soccer can also teach a child important life skills that will make them more effective in facing challenges such as bullying.
5 Reasons Why is Soccer a Great Outlet for Bullied Kids
1. Soccer gives kids a healthy emotional outlet.
Kids, especially teenagers, are brimming with emotional energy. Without a proper place to vent this energy, it could manifest in unhealthy ways, especially if the child has aggressive tendencies. Committing their energies to friendly competition is one of the best ways for them to release pent-up emotions and relieve stress.
While any sport can be an effective outlet, soccer is one of the best sports for this purpose. You’re constantly running, which is a great way to flush the body with endorphins. Your effectiveness in the game is largely dependent on the power of your kicks, which in the kids’ case can be fueled by the emotions they keep pent up in their day-to-day lives. Think of the soccer ball as a stress ball, only you interact with it in a more dynamic capacity.
2. Soccer can reinforce positive habits.
As with all sports, soccer is fantastic for helping your child form good habits. Fostering a sporting spirit will allow them to view challenges in a positive light. A good sportsman will also be committed to physical and mental fitness. These will help him grow into a more competent individual that will make him better equipped to face adversity. Having a competent coach and supportive parents can only enhance these effects.
If it is the child’s first time learning soccer or any sport for that matter, they will be able to develop good learning habits that will make them more adaptable to changing situations. The sport also allows the child to familiarize themselves with the concepts of perseverance and self-improvement in a fun and engaging way. An upbeat child armed with mental endurance and ingenuity will be much more prepared to face schoolyard animosity.
3. Soccer is great for building camaraderie and people skills.
Bullying is one of the biggest reasons why a child may dislike going to school. In the US, over 4 million students skip school each year as a direct result of bullying, according to Cyberbullying.org. The CDC has also found a direct link between bullying environments and dropout rates. Being targeted by bullies can cause the child’s interpersonal relationship skills to deteriorate. This can manifest in feelings of alienation and having few friends. It can also worsen in the form of unhealthy rivalries and becoming bullies themselves. Soccer can help avert such a disastrous outcome. Learning how to work as a team is one of the core principles of soccer. As a child grows as a soccer player, he will learn how to form better bonds with his teammates, connect with people, resolve conflicts, and become a good leader when necessary.
In soccer, players are made to understand that their teammates’ success is their success. No game is won by a single player. Even offensive players that specialize in scoring are made to realize that their effectiveness is borne on the backs of their supporting teammates. Few things teach a child how to appreciate and interface with the people around them like a good team sport. Soccer is the perfect example of that.
4. Mentors and soccer coaches can keep kids out of trouble.
Sometimes, a child beset by adversity can seem like a magnet for all sorts of trouble, from getting into schoolyard scraps to talking back to teachers and getting detention. If left unchecked, such behavior can spiral into even worse outcomes, such as hanging out with the wrong crowd. For kids like that, occupying themselves with an activity they enjoy can avert such issues.
It has already been discussed how sports can help children vent their frustrations and other emotions in a healthy way. That will play a key part in keeping kids out of trouble, but it only plays a part. The remainder of sports’ role in keeping a kid away from conflict and bad company is fulfilled by the mentorship provided by coaches and older teammates. A good coach teaches a child as much about life as about the game they are playing. Senior athletes do the same thing, albeit in a much smaller capacity. But they come with the advantage of being more approachable and easier to connect to. Good mentors give kids people to look up to and measure themselves against. It also helps if a child’s role models have been in the same situation as them. This way, they can give them relevant advice and help them relate their life’s challenges to those faced in the game.
5. Sportsmanship is beneficial to mental health.
In 2019, researchers from Jama Pediatrics found that team play is pivotal in staving off depression in children. After looking at data from more than 9,600 kids, the researchers found that those who have faced difficulties in childhood can still grow up to be mentally healthy, as long as they had participated in team sports at the time. They came to this conclusion by observing that children who had played team sports did not get depressed as much as their peers who had not. According to experts, this is thanks to the perseverance and resilience imparted by sportsmanship on kids.
Aside from depression, soccer can also help out children who have been diagnosed with ADHD or Autism. This is because soccer is a sport in which you are constantly moving, and the team’s success depends on each individual’s skill and ability to coordinate with teammates. Plus, if their team has a committed and passionate coach, he or she will take time to have one-on-one talks with the players. This allows the coach to hone in on the child’s strengths and keep their weaknesses in check, further compounding on their skill and competence. Individual focus on an ADHD-diagnosed child trains them to pay full attention and makes them feel less alienated. This helps them connect more with their peers and build a stronger social framework, creating a buffer that makes them harder to pick on.
Soccer is one of the best examples of team sports out there. It offers a perfect balance of individual and team play, teaches vital life skills, and most importantly, allows kids to apply all of that youthful energy into something worthwhile.